The Avatar is Dead, Long Live the Avatar!

Henshin Mystic: The new path of the "avatar."

Henshin Mystic: The new path of the “avatar.”

You may remember my pride in Quintessica, my one Monk who had mastered all Grandmaster elemental forms, like Aang in the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” animated series.

With Update 19, everyone gets all elemental stances, right up to Grandmaster, as feats, automatically. It leaves Quintessica’s original design as a bit useless. I still thought possessing all elemental forms overpowers the class right up to yesterday’s debut.

That said, I mourned the death of Quintessica’s build, then decided for something different.

If Quintessica already has elemental form mastery, perhaps she can attain a new level of mastery. Something that blends both sides of the Monk philosophy–weapons or no weapons. Light and Dark.

Logging into Quin recently, I retrained her in the ways of the Henshin Mystic.

Spell-Like Abilities

The good news is that Henshins are effectively spellcasters that use ki. The devs specialized them to wield a quarterstaff to great effect in damage while also throwing incredible Fire and Force damage with a few area of effect attacks. They don’t have many spell-like abilities, but they also gain improvements in weapon damage.

That means that spell power is as big a thing for Henshins as for Wizards and Sorcerers. Spell power increases the damage of a particular element or power, be it Light or Negative Energy.

I don’t play any spellcasters except a Cleric and an Artificer, and their job doesn’t emphasize damage as much (or I just suck at playing them). That said, I needed to learn more on spell power.

For casters, they often get metamagic feats that can greatly boost their spell power for more damage. That’s nice and all, but for the Henshin, this is a pickle. Ki is mystical but not magic. Therefore, they haven’t any metamagic abilities to boost damage. They appear entirely dependent on the Henshin tree’s various abilities for spell power boosts to Fire and Force, throughout their lives as inherent abilities. Whether these numbers are offset by the class’s melee damage to form a character that works as well as some spell casters is the big question I have as yet to play out with Quintessica’s new form.

After inherent abilities, implement, equipment  and alchemical bonuses from items have to do. Quarterstaves often have these as part of their nature. So the crazy amount of Thamaturgy staffs out there might be useful.

I wonder if taking a level or two of a Sorcerer or Wizard (I’d lean to the Wiz) to get basic metamagic feats would help here, and if that spell power boost would work with the Henshin’s ki attacks. Given the overhead of such a thing, I’m not sure if I’ll ever try this.

Melee Combat

Quarterstaves aren’t bad for damage, but they wear out very quickly. If I’m going to love any quarterstaff, I’d better attune them so they don’t take permanent damage. Quarterstaves are also bludgeoning weapons so they’re no more useful against zombies than your fists.  Best to keep a pair of kamas handy.

The stance “Lighting the Candle” is great to add Fire damage to any wielded weapon or unarmed combat.

Remember the elemental debuffing moves needed by the old Dark Monks to get Touch of Death? These are now part of the Henshin class tree. Activate any of these attacks to give an enemy a 10% vulnerability to an element. Fire is a Henshin’s prime damage dealer, so spamming the All-Consuming Flame debuffer will be nice to do.

Quin had amassed many handwraps that helped in unarmed damage reduction, so she needn’t take any Shintao stuff. She already knows how to get the most of any elemental stance. She just needed some quarterstaves, some points in the Henshin tree and continue her schooling.


Henshins aren’t dependent on a staff but they help with spell power if they have any properties. Should you choose to go as an unarmed Henshin, your spell-like abilities that boost Fire and Force damage will be less than when wielding a staff.

As with any weapon, a staff is ultimately slower than fighting unarmed and, as noted, suffer greater damage. The Henshin tree boosts damage using the Quick Strikes ability for improving doublestrike for a brief time. Since you’ll get the full Air Stance training, a Henshin in Air Stance should be a DPS monster. They also improve their Critical Threat Range and Multiplier, thankfully.

Many players questioned the emphasis on Fire during the beta because, well, some of the nastiest enemies are Fire-frickin’-immune, such as the devils of Shavarath. That means that Henshins need greater Force damage with their area-of-effect skills or go toe-to-toe with more melee damage. Of the two spell powers, Force is what I’ll be looking to find more to add. There are a handful of powerful quarterstaves, such as an unlocked Dreamspitter, that have great Force Burst damage.

You can’t just go to a vendor to buy “ki potions.” This energy is generated only by fighting early on. The Henshin gains several abilities with ki generation in mind as they train. First, they gain extra Meditations. Other Monks get only 2 per rest. The Henshin may have as many as 5, if I count right. It’s going to be rough going for Henshins in that using shrines to restore Meditations used in high-level abilities means that you also destroy your accumulated ki.

Thankfully, Henshins do improve on their passive ki regeneration. Think of it like the spellcaster’s “Stir of Echoes”, but allows a larger regeneration to the character’s stable pool, where ki generated and lost achieve a balance. At level 20, a Henshin should have a vast supply and should be able to regenerate faster than other Monks. That said, Quin has been mostly in Fire Stance to build ki, and she’s slower to do so than when unarmed (more damage per second). Hopefully this means that standing about in Ocean Stance with these effects will passively regenerate 3 or 4 ki per 6 seconds at high level.

Lastly, the Henshin’s defenses are somewhat weak in that there’s little in the class tree to improve AC, saves or miss-chance. You’ll need good gear as a melee-happy Henshin. STR determines a Stunning Blow success, but lower DEX means less Reflex and AC bonus. You’ll need WIS for a large ki pool.

Is this what GamerGeoff meant by the “Return of the DEX build?”

The Master of All Finishers

While revamping the Monk guide for Update 19, I realized I hadn’t a page that listed every available finishing move. So I made a new chapter.

There are 17 finishers in all. Shintao Monks and Ninja Spies can perform 11 of the 17  (theoretically, adding in the currently-broken level 10 finishers). Five finishers are philosophy-restricted. You can’t use Dance of Clouds as a Dark Monk because you have Fists of Darkness. Likewise, a Light Monk can’t use Freezing the Lifeblood without Fists of Darkness.

But the Henshin, thanks to two Tier 5 abilities, has the ability to perform all 17 finishers.

The first of the two tier 5 abilities, Balance in Dawn allows you to select a ki strike with a powerful effect but one that’s opposite of your chosen philosophy. Effectively, if you are a Light adherent, you gain a Fists of Darkness with a slower cooldown. For Dark Monks, a slower Fists of Light.

Unlike their normal counterparts, using Balance in Dawn strikes has a massive effect on allies (for Light) or enemies (for Dark).

  • Every Light Casts a Shadow: Cost: 15 Ki, Cooldown: 12 seconds. Dark ki melee attack: Perform an attack with +2[W] damage. On Damage: Target suffers 1d4 negative levels. If the target dies within 10 seconds, all nearby enemies suffer 1d2 negative levels.
  • Shadows Cannot Exist Without Light: Cost: 15 Ki, Cooldown: 6 seconds. Light ki melee attack: Perform an attack with +2[W] damage. On Damage: Target suffers 1d6 Light damage every 2 seconds for 10 seconds. This can stack up to 10 times. If the target dies within 10 seconds, all allies around the target receive 100 Positive Energy healing. (This healing effect is unaffected by Spell Power.)

This move does allows a Henshin to use the Healing Ki finisher, or the Touch of Despair finisher, and unlocks any moves that require them. In party battle, a Henshin can really upset a mob’s advantage in numbers or give decent party support.

Finally, there’s the matter of Void attacks and the second of two attacks to unlock the Master state. Update 19 removed all original Void Strike attacks (all enhancements) and gave one and only one to the Henshin–the counterpart to “Void Strike IV,” now just Void Strike, a tier 5 ability.

Void Strike does the same as in the past: massive Force damage with a vorpal confirmation sending the enemy to nothingness.

For other Monks to attain this attack this means not only a substantial use of AP that gimps their other trees, but will also lock them into the Henshin tier 5 and out of other trees. That means that the level 10 finishers can’t really be used by other Monks except a Henshin that takes Void Strike. (Hopefully the devs will add a low-level Void Strike as a trainable feat to rectify this someday.)

Hm. That “avatar” style looks to be back on the menu.

The key here is to do what few Monks do: Take advantage of all of the finishers in daily life.

I’m talking more of the core finishers that all Monks can do, which are typical spamming one element three times to form the finisher. Then there’s the matter of the level 10 finishers, of which the Henshin (at present) is the only one capable of using.

So, a Master of All Finishers? How does that play out in practice?

Stay tuned and see. A Henshin that can burn and break, debuff, neg-level, burst healing effects, and charm enemies has got to have some joy to it.

(Note: I know that the Dark portion of Balance in Dawn is as bugged as the Ninja Spy’s Wave of Despair in that it gives negative levels to allies. I learned as well that you can neg-level yourself with it! Whoops. A workaround is to hand out Death Ward to everyone to easily fix this until the devs resolve the problem, if it’s not working as intended.)


21 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ddomicki
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:24:56

    🙂 as you may know, I recently TR’d my clonk (that I only play a few h/ week) and I am building a palemaster quarterstaff henshin mystic. She’ll be 2 rogue/ 6 monk/ 12 wizard. I’m not sure if this is the best build or if I’ll even know how to play it, but it’s gonna be interesting. 🙂

    • teachersyn
      Sep 18, 2013 @ 11:33:43

      Do let me know how metamagics work with her and the Henshin effects. I’d think she’d get some stronger boosts than going pure.

  2. Yaegur
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 13:33:41

    Do not forget the Doublestrike from the first tier of the Shintao tree either. Other useful staves include the Shadow Staff (I prefer the Stonedust variation myself), Rahl’s Might (the weapon itself was even made for Dark Path monks in mind and at least helps with fending off against undead) and the Shining Crescent.

    My Shintao is planning on spending heavily into the Henshin tree. Extra DC’s, another passive ki regeneration, extra monk DC’s, an Animal Path and possibly some extra Meditations. (Maybe I’ll toss in a bit of Wisdom while I’m at it.) My gal doesn’t use stealth either, so I’m considering spending about 4 points into Ninja for the extra Dodge bonus.

    Dex builds have been needing some real love. If the first core of Ninja Spy works for Vorpal Strikes, I’m very certain I’ll be able to drop Finesse too. Shame it’s such a long wait, though.

    • Yaegur
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 09:20:46

      Ignore my comment about the doublestrike in the Shintao Tree. It’s offhand, not doublestrike. Oops.

    • John B.
      Sep 27, 2013 @ 08:00:49

      Another staff I found that might prove to be fun while running around wanting to maximize on your Ki-Magic might be the Epic Luminous Truth as well. Running with the Light Path, you could slot in a Ruby for Force, and you’d have a boost to your fire, force and positive magic effects.

  3. FuzzyDuck81
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 05:51:26

    From the lammania u 19 patch 2 release notes:
    Monk Henshin Mystic:
    Each Core Enhancement in the Henshin Mystic tree except Serenity now also gives +1% Fire and Force Spell Critical Chance.
    Serenity gives an additional +5% Fire and Force Spell Critical Chance.
    The cooldown of Incinerating Wave has been reduced to 9 seconds from 12 seconds.

    A splash could possibly still help though, as the magical training feat gives +5% spell critical chance which would absorb that, as well as an SP bar to power some abilities in epic levels. Main ones to consider:
    – Wizard: a bonus metamagic feat could be useful if you’re dragonmarked (extended displacements! maximised healing marks!) as well as a couple of handy lowbie spells & for 1 AP you can get a low level SLA (eg. Shield, invisibility) & a bit more crit chance plus wands
    – Sorcerer: go fire savant for extra spellpower & a bit more crit chance, plus wands.
    – Cleric: wands, access to the empower healing metamagic feat for boosting halfling dragonmarks
    – Fvs: ditto from cleric
    – Artificer: UMD as a class skill & +1 to scroll caster level, some wands
    – Druid: (requires LN alignment) Shilleileigh..shillaylee…shilalalalayleeeee…uh, MAGIC STICK BOOSTER to boost +w on your staff 🙂

    Just a matter of would any of those be better than perfect self plus the henshin capstone?

  4. FuzzyDuck81
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 05:58:00

    Oh, just to add – once you get to eveningstar, the stout oak walking stick from villager commendations is 2[2d6]20/x3 with impact to make it 19-20 crits, becoming 17-20/x4 with the stick use t5 ability (added crit range is added to the base range so IC or keen/impact will double all of it) & x5 multiplier on 19-20 rolls in tier 3 or 4 earth stance… dreadnaught will add extra crit range & another +1 multiplier too, and if you go the overwhelming criticals route there’s another +1 to be had there too. Its a bit of a beast, with the handy extra effects of no-save knockdown on a vorpal and it’s aligned too for some DR breaking 😀

    • teachersyn
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 09:16:30

      It’s great that the devs are tweaking the Henshin’s power a bit, now that U19.0 is settled in. It was a natural move. Great info; I need to look into the Druid side. Talk about a meta-mystical badass if you synergize Henshin and Druidic powers. Balance is important, so I know the devs won’t be handing out metamagics since Henshin melee attacks (with Monk defenses) make them pretty hardy, especially with that Stout Oak thwacky-stick! Been thinking that Dreadnought is a better ED over GMoF for a Henshin just to beef up defenses and attack speed/prowess. Yay for lower cooldowns!

  5. FuzzyDuck81
    Sep 20, 2013 @ 03:24:52

    Yeah dreadnaught is a great one – but still, don’t forget to twist in a dance of flowers from GMoF, that’s an extra +1.5[w], so another 3d6 base damage from only a tier 1 slot 🙂 IIRC someone in the forums did the calculations when MOTU went live & pretty much concluded that the devs were trolling us by making one of the new definitive eSOS-beaters be a quarterstaff that monks could excel with.

    • teachersyn
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 08:27:53

      A specific quarterstaff or a build? I could see a well-equipped Henshin just incinerating frost giants but having a small problem in the fire area of Stealer of Souls. (eSOS?). Quite so: Weapon damage and spell power have been deep in my mind as I play Quin. That, and how terribly fragile most staffs tend to be. Repair bills are awful, Thankfully I just unlocked Free Agent favor for better repair. I twist so much with my characters that Chubby Checker is a proud sponsor. 🙂

      • Yaegur
        Sep 20, 2013 @ 09:15:43

        I believe Fuzz is referring to the Epic Sword of Shadows.

        • Yaegur
          Sep 20, 2013 @ 09:16:05

          Bah, I meant Fuzzy. My Y likes to act up.

          • teachersyn
            Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:30:09

            The Sword of Shadows…epic. DAY. UM. Getting that alone is enough motivation to build a Kensei Monk to pull that baby out for some sparring.

            • FuzzyDuck81
              Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:41:02

              That’s kind of the point – with a good quarterstaff build, the right destiny stuff etc. the stout oak walking stick beats the epic sword of shadows… and is pretty much a guaranteed piece of loot, needing only time to farm the villager commendations 🙂

              Sireth is another awesome weapon, though despite being coded as a quarterstaff, it doesn’t benefit from the pulveriser ability in dreadnaught because it does piercing damage & pulveriser checks actual damage type not base weapon type, similarly to some of the ninja abilities that work with weapons or, eg. the ivy wraps.

              • teachersyn
                Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:47:46

                NOW I get it. (Coffee didn’t set in.) Weapon Damage is thing I don’t look at as much as Monk (handwraps aren’t defined that way), so, looking at the numbers between that eSOS…WOW. You have justified Quintessica’s path with a guaranteed Stick o’ Death, sir!

                • FuzzyDuck81
                  Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:56:12

                  Glad i could help 🙂

                  The only minor issue is the same as with all sticks, that they seem to have somewhat lower hardness & durability so they get beaten up more easily… but that’s easily enough fixed with the adamantine ritual in the stone of change, or just working on some more commendations to pick up a spare one 🙂 of course, if you’re wanting the villager set too for those bonuses, that’s a lot of comms to pick up.

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