Ranger Hunter Soldier Spy

artemistika1I have a Bard, a Rogue Assassin and many many Ninja Spies.

I haven’t played a Ranger since Pynthetica’s first life, before the new stealth AI retool and enhancement trees.

And I’ve never tried out one particular flavor of Ranger that deserves some attention with the stealth revisions. This way I can learn more about this class path and shore up information in the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide.

So, say hello to young Artemistika, my first Deepwood Stalker. She just might be the best overall stealth fighter because of her very specific skill set.

The Shadow

What stoked me about the Stalker is the incorporation of stealth with powerful ranged attack. At first it struck me as a support build, like the Rogue. The Stalker seemed lacking, at first, the sustained DPS and imbue versatility seen in the Arcane Archer or the melee complexity of the Tempest two-hander or Ninja Spy.

But, reading between the lines as I try to do, I began to see more of the sniper and the rogueish stealth master inside this Ranger that I had to try, with a touch of an old idea I once tried in a lost Artificer.

The Stalker’s makes for the missing imbued arrows of the Arcane Archer kindred with the benefit of ranged Sneak Attack damage, allowing a powerful burst hit of damage provided that you strike fast and first, or preferably have an aggro-magnet keep the attention of everyone. Combined with high stealth skills, the Stalker can pick their targets and kill with only a few quick volleys before cloaking into the shadows to hunt again.

artemistika3

Stealth masters in-training always go to see Ulluvian, patron saint of stealth masters, for chats and tips. If he can sneak home through a Droaam horde, so can you.

This Ranger is naturally stealth-able. Camouflage is especially potent to allow me to sneak past a mob at closer range than any other characters, Rogues and Monks included.

The Faster Sneaking skill is important as Rangers don’t quite move as fast as other classes and need that speed edge. The Ranger’s ability to improve Hide and Move Silently skills for supporting players looks very handy as well.

I’m looking forward to joining more parties with this build. While slower than the ninjas, Mistika makes up for stealth speed with better Hide scores. Eventual training gives Hide in Plain Sight, making Mistika likely the best stealth master because of her ability to weave through enemies at closer range than anyone else I have.

The Sidekicks

I’ve loved the ability to summon other creatures. I experimented with this summoner role with my second, late Artificer named Ayvanna. She trained her normal Iron Defender but also added in a second and, I think, even a third Defender to have a pack of dogs that grabbed aggro while she attacked with her crossbow and runearm.

When Pynthetica was an Arcane Ranger, she also had a simple Summoned Ally as befitted her spell abilities, occasionally using her Wild Empathy to add a second charmed creature.

With Mistika’s Stalker enhancements and a few others, I’m weaponizing my NPC helpers.

It’s one thing to charm an animal. But what if the animal I charmed with Empathy was also a Monster Champion (extra buffs, tougher to kill)?

What if I added the Augment Summoning feat (+4 to all ability scores, increased health and fortification) to this? And how about some Harper Leadership training (Your hirelings, summoned, and charmed creatures gain up to +4 to all ability scores)?

A quick check on the forums (with the answer given by the FuzzyDuck himself) confirmed that Harper Leadership and Augment Summoning’s boosts stack on your direct hirelings and summons, although not your hireling’s summons.

And finally, let me use my Empathy powers as a Fascination-like power against Vermin, Elementals and Magical Beasts if I feel like it.

So level 7 ‘Mistika (readied as a Veteran Status II character) tried this out on an Elite “Where There’s Smoke.” (Level 5). With Flower the hireling in tow, we popped off orc after orc. But the fun came when I remembered the wolves in the area.

A better use of Monster Champions: Turn them to your side and buff them up further.

A better use of Monster Champions: Turn them to your side and buff them up further.

In both packs there was a Champion among them. One use of Improved Wild Empathy later and that Champion was my dominated bitch (pun intended). A use of Charm Animal and a second doggie turned to my side, wreaking havoc with the neighboring orc parties.

This Christmas weekend, I was so enamored with ‘Mistika that I played her all weekend. It will be a bit before her best summoned creature is available, but I summon it in a pinch when I need more aggro-magnets. I can charm or dominate as many animals as they are available and as fast as my cooldowns, spell points and Empathy turns allow.

Improved Wild Empathy is really a Domination spell, so for five minutes, I have an extra helper unless I have to climb or drop off somewhere; sadly, such creatures cannot follow. Adding a charmed animal adds to the confusion. The benefit to Empathy powers is that they aren’t dispellable or breakable. My charmed animals stay that way, even if damaged. And these special charms can’t be removed even if you had Bard levels and used a Disarm Charm ability.

With Stalker training, your Empathy powers give you the ability to halt elementals, vermin, and magical beasts in their tracks. I knew just the quests where I wanted to test this ability. In “Haywire’s Foundry,” I smacked Empathy on the two fire and sole earth elementals that appear at the start, locking them in place for 5 minutes to kill them without retaliation.

That’s an awesome stopping power I also used in “Spies in the House” (the fire elementals with a possible and deadly air elemental) and against air elementals in general–I hate their knockdown powers.

This special Fascinate isn’t broken by anything, including damage. I’m limited by the number of Empathy turns I have, but then, using rest shrines isn’t as problematic for Rangers as it is for young Monks.

The Style

Artemistika is an Elf to gain greater weapon damage training for longbows or her rapiers with racial training. Her Mark of Shadow dragonmark adds Invisibility and, eventually, Shadow Walk, Displacement and eventually a nasty neg-level attack for crunch fights.

While Bow Strength improves the STR modifier to give longbow damage for Rangers, the Elf can train the racial tier 5 ability, Aerenal Grace, which lets DEX become the damage modifier, overriding Bow Strength. So, all ability points go to DEX and nothing but DEX  for maximum to-hit, damage with a little AC and improved Reflex as a bonus. at least as much as maximum dexterity bonus allows.

I’ll add what I can to CON (HP) and WIS (Will save for Empathy and charming) with items, available enhancements and tomes.

Another racial ability, Skill, adds 3% untyped Doubleshot and much-needed Dodge while bypassing 3% of enemy Dodge.

The Stalker build emphasizes quick, powerful strikes with ranged Sneak Attack damage. The old prestige enhancements name was “Deepwood Sniper,” which still holds true in flavor in the succeeding tree.

Like Suki, Mistika shares the Killer enhancement, which adds a 5% Morale Bonus to “Extra Shots” (that’s the text; strange that it doesn’t say “Doubleshot”) for a few seconds after a successful sneak attack kill, stacking up to 4 times. That’s a 20% Morale Bonus doubleshot bonus I sorely desire, which will stack with any Enhancement bonus items I can find. Makes the “Mark of Death” raid more attractive, where the Epic Quiver of Alacrity rests.

artemistika4

The Stalker gains serious attack boosts when using Precise Shot’s Archer’s Focus, a stance which magnifies her attack the longer she stands still, especially with the final core ability that adds more stacks to this ability. Farther potency to very distant ranged attacks improves as well over other archers, where by level 20 I’ll always be considered in Point Blank Shot and Sneak Attack range.

But to keep the Archer Focus bonus, Artemistika has to keep control of the field. That’s why she’ll use her charm and summoning powers to keep her NPC charges up and attracting nasties.

To keep her animal army hardy, she can eventually apply elemental resists, Freedom of Movement, energy protection, and more. While Mistika’s hireling’s summons don’t gain the ability score boosts, the additional bodies in the crowd make for a formidable attack option.

Stalkers gain sizable positive energy spell power boosts as they grow. Combined with points in Heal as a class skill, her otherwise-weaker Cure Light and Moderate Wounds spells are very effective. I need it. My miss-chance effects are poor, with Dodge getting capped by the use of light armor, and no Blur or Incorporeality yet. Blur is my priority to ward off some melee and ranged damage. I’ll need to add in a Dusk (10% Incorporeality) item/augment somewhere, and do what I can in Dodge. Of all the things that worry me is generating enough AC and defenses. Having the light armor gives a small PRR bonus to ward off some damage.

Mistika does have a Shadow dragonmark, so she’s got a few but long-lasting Invisibility turns, and can train Shadow Walk, Displacement and even a special negative-leveling power if AP allows it.

Hide and Move Silently are naturally trained up, and she’s got great Spot bonuses. I’m going to boost that Search power up a bit more for finding those hidden doors, or look to Elven skills that might work if I have the AP to train them.

The Strategy

Artemistika first worked on her House Deneith favor for sturdy arrows. These have greater enhancements to them and drain far slower than standard arrows, so its a matter of having a couple of wide quivers of a 1000 each. I also carry Adamantine and Cold Iron ones for special needs. Sure, getting Conjured Arrows from the Ranger AA tree is possible but that’s AP I can use for something else.

I also zoomed her through some Cannith challenges for a Frozen Tunic, the first time I’ve ever spent time in such challenges outright with a new character. Not using it as much right now but I will before it’s freezing DCs start to be less effective.

At first glance, the special ranged attacks don’t look like much. And then I discovered the joy of Sniper Shot. This, like the Monk’s Unbalancing Strike, is a Bluffing/Deception shot. It’s got a relatively fast 6-second cooldown, making it great for me to spin about enemies and add in some extra Sneak Attack damage while they are bluffed.

Manyshot stays reserved for times where my aggro-partners are becoming overwhelmed and I need to clear out a powerful mob. I also use it against HP-heavy red-named enemies, of course. I miss the faster cooldown of Ten Thousand Stars on Pyn, but I’m getting by nicely.

As a first-life, Mistika is leveling crazy-fast, already at level 13 with a banked level as you read this. I’m prioritizing quests with high XP, specific favor rewards or gear and will shortly rev down the XP to complete favor and gain gear on low level quests I’ve skipped. Quests like “The Pit”, “Stormcleave Outpost” and “Spies in the House” were easily done. Had more problems with “Tear of Dhakaan” and couldn’t complete when I hit the respawning town room and I left my hireling active with fatal results.

The Serpentbranch bow I had on Pynthetica (bound to account) is still her go-to bow for most attacks, although I just crafted up a nice Aligned of Greater Construct Bane bow with an empty red slot for Maruts and other robots. Any bow that I can augment helps a lot with general DPS.

Same goes for finding items that add bonuses to Sneak Attack damage. A Halfling’s racial bonuses, in hindsight, would make an improved sniper, but the elven DEX-to-damage power might be offsetting this. A kindly guildmate (you know who you are) donated the Bracers of the Hunter to me that help with a bit more Sneak Attack damage.

I think a Ring of the Stalker is also in my immediate future, especially one for level 20. That Manslayer effect would be awesome and the exceptional Sneak Attack bonus damage welcome, not to mention some miss-chance effects.

Black Dragonscale Armor seems also in the future. I’ll have to farm for scales in Tor with the nearly implacable Szyncletica.

I’m wearing Deadly/Accuracy gear and a Seeker VI item with Improved Critical: Piercing trained. It’s making the critical hits quite potent.

So, to sum up, Mistika plays a little more like an Assassin. She brings her melee/aggro team in to lure a mob. This requires stealth; you get your summoned team close enough to auto-attack while keeping yourself from being seen.

This team is buffed up to stay alive, generating aggro just as I reveal myself and begin picking off the enemies that my team damages, minimizing the risk of hitting something that turns away from the pack and towards me. The sneak attack damage is key here. I’ll have special shots that outright kill weaker enemies, and if I can add points to Killer and other critical threat/hit effects, the damage stacks.

You just don’t go all pew-pew with a Stalker. This is a hunter. You have to deliberately arrange and pick a target for best effect.

Again, all of this ties to the stillness of the archer. Unlike my other ranged attackers like Szyncletica the thrower and Pynthetica the Zen Archer, Artemistika avoids movement while shooting. She’s gained Improved Precise Shot as a Ranger, but she’ll rarely use it since Stalkers can gain bonuses to Archer’s Focus with Precise Shot. The longer she stands still, the greater the damage.

The Sights

artemistika2The coolest thing about Mistika is her appearance. She looks angry and all Action-Girly powerful.

I invested in a new cosmetic armor to seal in the look. I don’t normally go for blondes, but for Mistika, I’ll make a happy exception.

I’ll talk more on her Epic future as she quickly comes to it. Shiradi Champion and Fury of the Wild are natural fits, but so is Primal Avatar, especially with the summoned/hireling buffs there that might be sorely needed if soloing an Epic quest. Shadowdancer looks great, too, for better defenses and more Sneak Attack die.

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23 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Broome
    Dec 29, 2014 @ 13:51:01

    Brroome had fun as a dex based DWS elf. He took four levels of rogue for the synergies with thief acrobat though. This adds quatertaves to the rapiers and long bows as weapon choices (unless you plan on using a feat for weapon fitness); shadow dodge for more dex (+6 total from all three ranks) and +3% dodge; No Mercy for really big damage to helpless opponents. Brroome discarded light armour in favour of robes and outfits for the very big dodge, along with displacement (from the dragon mark) and incorporeality very high sneak skills and, if needed, running away fast…… he found that getting hit wasn’t too much of a problem. The small PRR and MRR from light armour didn’t seem to match the loss of dodge (he didn’t have access to lots of armoured agility items that may have helped here).

    Brroome had a lot of purchase from Aimed Shot. Especially on an expanded crit range bow like the Silver Longbow. If used after Sniper Shot then this also had Sneak Attack Damage for a second big hit. Often enough to take down most trash mobs. The additional Archers focus stacks meant that if a third shot was needed then this too was usually fairly high damage and most mobs would be down before they reached me. This was before monster champions though… It may be a little tougher (and more fun) to do this now.

    He also got into a little bit of trouble with his wild empathy. Charming mobs that have to be killed to progress a quest only to find the charm can’t be dismissed….. Well…. We live to learn…..

    • teachersyn
      Dec 29, 2014 @ 14:11:41

      Great insights. I’m still farming for the Silver Longbow but know it’s got a fair drop rate and I’m confident in finding one. On Champions, I try to direct my minions to attack it first to whittle off HP before I start in to avoid it turning on me too early, if at all. Champions make for a change of pace to the quests you think you know well, that’s for sure.

      I should consider robes as well. I rid myself of MDB and gain better AC and Dodge. Very good advice. I just need a few more Sneak Attack die… 🙂

  2. FuzzyDuck81
    Dec 29, 2014 @ 15:28:19

    Don’t forget to try for a tendon slice version of the seal of dun robar, it works on all weapons not just melee.. pair that with the shimmering arrowhead for crippling on crits & since both effects stack that can really help keep things at a safe distance. Black dragon armour is definitely a great choice & at the moment is probably the best one out there for ranged use.. i’d also suggest an epic golden guile – ghostly & improved deception will be really handy & the other bonuses on it aren’t too shabby either.

    Destiny-wise, another good one too for archers is dreadnaught, since master’s blitz includes ranged power, and pretty much the only other way to get that at the moment is in the harper enhancement tree, which you might not have the AP to invest in all that much.

    Probably not so workable since you’re already in progress with it, but a completely different option for the build instead of DEX-based might be to go INT-based & take insightful reflexes instead since that will save you the points in elf racial tree to invest more in harper, and as a pure ranger it’s not like you need to worry about the feat prereqs. It’ll mean you have a great number of skillpoints & know the angles (INT version of divine might, basically) will give you even more damage potential. Also, throat dagger is just awesome for disabling pesky casters – plus fits in rather well with the whole theme of taking those perfectly aimed shots 🙂 Race-wise for that I’d probably personally take sun elf & just use an LR+1 to get rid of the cleric level, then you could take the racial combined mass aid/spell resistance/DW to round out your self-sufficient buffs – might be a little tight with the enhancements though.

    Oh, and cheers for that shout-out 😀

    • FuzzyDuck81
      Dec 29, 2014 @ 15:33:46

      Oh, one thing i forgot to mention.. in addition to your other situational arrows, have a nice big stack of +1 holy arrows in them too – they’re relatively cheap & easy to make through cannith crafting & so long as they aren’t identical, effects on weapon & ammo stack – a shame rangers don’t have flame arrow on their spell lists really, since it summons a nice stack of 500 now.

      • teachersyn
        Dec 29, 2014 @ 20:53:53

        True…forgot I could make Holy arrows. I like these far better than AA conjured ones. One of the ninjas has a Quivering Quiver that spits up a lot of arrows that I pony over to Pyn, so I’ll add a few to Mistika, too. There’s also a plan to run into the Chronoscope for their Flametouched Arrows to be ultra-cheap. 🙂

      • dsix
        Jan 13, 2015 @ 20:32:25

        It shouldn’t be hard to get your UMD up high enough to use a wand of flame arrows (UMD 28). I do this with my archers instead of conjuring/buying.conjure three of four stacks and you’re good for quite a while

        • Lightning
          Jan 14, 2015 @ 10:30:57

          Thanks for that tip. I didn’t realize that they finally increased the number that spell conjures. I honestly believed it was still 100 per 1 ammo. I suppose this could even be useful for shuriken throwers when they come up against something weak to fire and they’re still using the Shadow Star or Snowstar.

          However, I’d think that this might, in the end, take a while. Outside of Half Elves or splashing, I cannot think of many ways you could build up the UMD sufficiently at lower levels.

          That said, it would certainly free up some AP in higher levels to be placed elsewhere. But by then, I’d think non-conjuring spells for ammo would be replaced by the Sturdy types provided by Deneith favor.

    • teachersyn
      Dec 29, 2014 @ 20:51:29

      You’re welcome, and that’s a fascinating variation. Harper has really opened up the playing field for INT-based weaponry. I’ll kill you with my brain!

      Seal of Dun’Robar is on the list. Wearing Deception items is good, but I know it procs less than directly causing it, so a mixture of both is a safe choice. Next life, maybe?

  3. Shawnvw
    Dec 29, 2014 @ 16:21:53

    Sounds impressive, O Master. I’d like to apply this to my human Ranger. What would you change? Would you raise her strength to take advantage of bow Strength?

    • teachersyn
      Dec 29, 2014 @ 20:56:49

      For any Ranger that uses a bow, absolutely. Unless you’re an Elf like me and can concentrate damage and attack in one stat (DEX) with racial abilities. Or, if you’re enjoying the Harper tree and can use INT for damage and attack (like a Wizard or Rogue archer) through its enhancements. Otherwise, Bow Strength (with the Ram’s Might spell) determines how hard those arrows hit, and DEX determines the chance of hitting and a possible extra arrow.

  4. saekee
    Dec 29, 2014 @ 21:11:58

    Nice read–as always it is also a curse as I now want to TR into a ranger…

    Best heroic now is Bow of Sinew!
    Also–you can put solipsism on the parasitic breastplate. This causes a SAP effect on vorpals, AFAIK it works on ranged and has no save. Gives excellent AC too, looks sexy on female toons.
    I am fairly sure an adrenaline selection will stack with the sniper shot and other one in DS line–anyway it works with Fist of Iron.

  5. DDOCentral
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 02:05:27

    Reblogged this on DDOCentral.

  6. erdrique
    Dec 30, 2014 @ 20:36:51

    Definitely sounds like an interesting and fun build concept. I’m really enjoying my Deepswood Stalker but he is still sitting under level 7 at the moment. One thing of note, I thought that the Wild Empathy and Charm Animal DC’s were based on your charisma score and not wisdom though? Am I wrong on that?

    • teachersyn
      Dec 30, 2014 @ 23:16:06

      You’re possibly right but the wiki information is confusing. I have only 10 CHA and things are still working fine, so Empathy, I bet, works differently than Bardic charming.

  7. ComicRelief
    Jan 03, 2015 @ 19:58:16

    Nice. Of course, the one good thing about “conjure arrows” is you conjure one-stack when you log in, slot them, and then NEVER have to worry about running out of ammo. Ever.

    …Until you log-out, of course.
    😉

    • teachersyn
      Jan 03, 2015 @ 20:06:08

      I’m enjoying Sturdy arrows for their extra punch and DR options, but I do miss conjured arrows a little when I forget to check at just the wrong time…

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  9. Lightning
    Jan 09, 2015 @ 10:23:33

    I use the conjured arrows, but I’ve been intermittently playing my Sniper (I prefer the old Deepwood Sniper as the name instead of Deepwood Stalker, but oh well).

    It makes me want to level exclusively off of explorer areas, however. Considering the large range and open areas, it really can make for an interesting run. Slayer potions being a thing now certainly can speed up the progress, helping you to get the max kills in an area far more quickly than before. One of the first things most of my old ranged characters used to do involved a leisurely slaughter through the Cerulean Hills.

    I have been considering TRing her (she’s only level 8 right now, however), into a monk, and keep her pure in levels there as well. I’d still have to play with the feats a bit, as I’m not sure what all I’d be able to get away with. Many Ranged feats have a fair number of prerequisites, and I don’t believe you can toss them into Martial Arts feats, which is a shame, considering Zen Archery makes bows an option, and I don’t care for splashing.

    • teachersyn
      Jan 09, 2015 @ 20:12:44

      If you haven’t read already, see my posts on Pynthetica, former AA Ranger, now a level 20 Monk with Zen Archery. Not as much damage as my younger elven Stalker but still a very viable character, with greater defenses than the Ranger. But the Stalker wins with tremendous damage the longer she stands still.

      • Lightning
        Jan 09, 2015 @ 23:38:13

        I don’t doubt it. Just wanted to try something with a little variety with my characters. One of my monks is possibly getting a change into a Vanguard, but not sure whether fighter or paladin yet. (Likely Paladin.)

        Will look into the other posts later.

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