The race of the Zen Archers and the testing of the build was never a fair contest. Mericletica on Cannith was a first-lifer with XP nearly oozing out of every pore just for showing up somewhere, while three-lifer Pynthetica has to scrap for play time.
Pyn wins in the gear department hands down, however, having accumulated much in her lifetimes, including a Shimmering Arrowhead and all the big bows, including a Raider’s Box-bestowed Pinion bow that’s dying to be used.
But Mericletica, now level 23, is first to test the viability of the Epic Zen Archer first. As a first-life Monk, she began in the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny.
As part of the build testing, I’m writing a series of posts on Epic Destinies as they relate to the Zen Archer, with GMoF first.
Weaponized Ki, Improved Damage
While GMoF helps unarmed Monks best, it also offers general bonuses that apply to armed Monks. Mericletica’s ki is boosted. Her weapon damage is improved. A few Destiny Points to DEX aids in damage and to-hit. She bypasses more fortification.
Update 25 grants +3 Ranged/Melee power per each innate ability. That’s a great start to a build that will already had 15 Ranged Power on entering Epic play with her Harper Agent training. And every Epic character gains +3 Epic Power per level. At present, Mericletica has around 27 Ranged Power.
- Inner Focus (innate ability 1): Additional ki and stacking spell resistance to avoid attacks. Of course, this is also a rechargeable non-Meditation emergency ki surge button, helpful in prolonged attacks where I’m spamming Ten Thousand Stars and other ki attacks as often as I’m able.
- Perfect Balance: More to Dodge to maximize it to 30%.
- Lily Petal: The first of the magical ki attack balls. I plan to heavily leverage these and related attacks because of the Zen Archer’s maximized regenerative ki effects. As they give Magic type damage, most enemies can’t resist it and take hundreds of points of damage. It’ll be especially helpful against Champions, the bane of the Zen Archer, as their special buffs often compromise at least one of the build’s circles of defense.
- Enlightenment: More passive ki regeneration and ki as a whole to empower attacks. I’m using this ability to make adjustments to enhancement AP, as I’ll note in a moment.
- A Dance of Flowers: Increases the weapon damage modifier for her bows.
- Centered Mind (innate ability 2): The Slippery Mind feat to ward off enchantment attacks such as Otto’s dancing spells, buying the character time to escape and attack.
- Serenity: More stacking spell resistance needed against things such as the Drow spellcasters.
- Wholeness of Spirit (innate ability 3): Periodic cleansing button of bad status effects and debuffs.
- Orchid Blossom: Lily Petal’s mass strike upgrade. Helpful against mobs.
- Walking with Waves: While in Ocean Stance, an additional 3% Dodge if I require it by this time.
- Perfection of Body: Boosts to Fortitude saves, where this build is weakest.
- The Abiding Path (innate ability 4): Immunity to Slippery Surfaces. I do not fear and will not move away from the spellcasters with Sleet Storm.
- Standing with Stone: Up to +15 PRR and 15 HP when in Earth Stance. I’m often in this Monk stance for improvements to the critical threat range of my bows and damage mitigation, now that other abilities of the destiny can compensate for the loss of saving throws and Dodge when otherwise using Ocean Stance. Critical hit damage goes up 30% easily when I’m running in this mode.
- Piercing Clarity: Effective True Seeing against concealment effects. Most importantly, additional fortification bypass of 10% to go with Precision (25%) and other bypass training I can utilize.
- Ubiquity (innate ability 5): Tumbling through enemies as if they were incorporeal. Helpful to shift position while not interrupting Archer’s Focus, if it works.
- Drifting Lotus: My answer to avoiding Improved Precise Shot. Combined with the other ki attacks, I’ll be able to quickly knockdown and damage enemies, often using this feature to escape with stealth if a fight becomes overwhelming.
- Dancing with Flames: Like A Dance of Flowers, I hoped this additional ability would also boost the weapon dice modifier. However, it fails to work with bows, only unarmed and perhaps melee weapons. It’s skipped.
- Perfection of Soul: Additional Reflex saves when in the heat of battle. Right now, I’m less in need of it.
- Balance in All Things (innate ability 6): Immunity to most knockdowns and an additional +1 to passive ki regeneration. For the Zen Archer, that means up to a total of +5 possible passive ki regeneration (Stealthy from Ninja Spy, Contemplation from Henshin Mystic (now disabled), Ultimate Ocean Stance, Enlightenment and this innate ability). If HP drops to less than 50%, then Way of the Tenacious Badger adds +1 for a rapid +5/+6 passive regeneration, perfect for spamming Lily Petal and other alternative attacks.
- A Scattering of Petals: A Blinding debuff for escapes. A convenient alternative to the Ninja Spy’s Flash Bang (which isn’t trained). I’d rather add another DEX point.
- Everything is Nothing: One of the best Epic Moments out there that instantly kills almost everything in a wide range. Since this Epic character will be spamming ki attacks often, it should be easy to have this charged for tactical use in wide areas where many enemies are anticipated, sniping and luring as many enemies into “Death Blossom” range. The Zen Archer will never lack in sufficient ki for this or any other ki strike.
Adjustments to Enhancements
With more passive ki regeneration from this destiny, it’s wasn’t a bad idea to retool my Monk enhancements for more weapon damage in Epic play. Here’s the summary.
- I reset the Henshin Mystic tree, removing training for Contemplation. This reduces passive ki regeneration by 1 but this is made up with the Enlightenment ability in GMoF, even as a Twisted ability, as well as the last innate ability while in GMoF. This freed up 8 AP and leaves the tree dormant.
- Completed 34 points of Harper Agent training. The last two cores weren’t helpful to damage, and those 10 AP used to qualify for it don’t help outside of DEX training. So any training at level 30 stopped after Harper Enchantment of Deception. I did consider Saekee’s great idea to extend my Elven Displacement duration with Magic of Patience, adding 2 points there. My Elven Displacement from my Shadow Dragonmark now lasts a hardy 4 minutes instead of 1 minute 30 seconds, thanks to that Extend Magic effect.
- Trained Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack and No Mercy enhancements using the 12 to 14 freed AP. This additional damage will come in handy when Shiradi Champion training offers Nerve Venom, which makes enemies helpless. Significant damage from Sneak Attacks now apply as Improved Deception effects kick in.
Mericletica is a first-life character on a server with a lower player population. I’ll have to make due from the charity of others for gear when raids are run less often.
Grabbed a low-hanging fruit: A Spider-Spun Caparison for a paltry amount of Astral Shards for +3 Insightful DEX later. I gathered plenty of Eveningstar Commendations for the Way of the Sun Soul set and its stance-based buffs.
The Radiant Forcefield-like buff that reduces damage by 25% for 10 seconds when a vorpal-calculated hit is confirmed in Earth Stance adds to the Zen damage reduction scheme, as does the PRR and AC boosts of Earth Stance. Ocean Stance kicks on a Fire Shield/Cold buff. I don’t know if the Wind Stance’s buff of 6% Doublestrike includes Doubleshot as well (I’m sure I tested this on Szyncletica and it does not).
With level 23 done, I decided to downshift to farm some items.
To use the Sun Soul set, my trusty level 3 Bracers of Wind must go, which meant a new Blurry item to replace it. I found a reasonably-priced epic Ring of Shadows on the Shard Exchange and put it on immediately at level 23. This ring has it all for the stealthy, defensive ninja. Great Hide/Move Silently and at least 10% Incorporeal protection with its Ghostly at all times to go with the Blurry, saving me a little ki in light skirmishes where I needn’t kick on Shadow Veil.
On the other hand is a gift from Saekee: A Seal of House Avithoul, perfect for the Epic adjustments for additional Sneak Attack damage, DEX +7 and with Improved Deception that stacks with my Harper based version for frequent Bluff-spins against charging attackers, slowing them down.
STR was a serious problem for me. My collection of bows are heavy, and even as I pared them down, I had to wear some Ogre Power boots and not something more useful. Completing most of the Heroic Elite runs possible in Gianthold gained me sufficient ancient relics to trade for a Diamond of Strength +5 that I added to the slot on the Ring of Shadows.
Scored a non-epic Roadwatch Bow in the latter days of leveling to 20, which was surprisingly effectively against the plant and fey in the “Druid’s Deep” series. I will be buying an Epic version of this thing, as well as completing more Eveningstar challenges to get different Cormyrian bows and their often harsh Improved Paralyzing, Wounding and other detrimental effects.
Saekee was happy to venture out to make me a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged Longbow. I wasn’t doing badly at all beforehand with my non-epic Thornlord for horrific 300 to 400 crits while in Earth Stance with sustained damage of 100 per hit, elevating by 20-45 with a bluffing Improved Diversion spin and the Sneak Attack bonus.
On breaking out of the Sun Soul set at higher levels for a raid configuration, the Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe would add more fortification bypass. I’ll be farming Heroic Tor to gather their lesser version for a robe usable for life #2 or for Epic play when I need to really punch through something.
So here’s the gear summary, thus far, for the TL;DR crowd.
- Helm: Deadly Helm of Accuracy (both +6 bonuses). This is a very useful placeholder until I find something better. The Epic choices are weird here. A Flawless Helm of the Black Dragon would pair well enough with its counterpart robe. The Epic Wheloon chain reward helms aren’t bad, but I think, for now, that level 27 Guardian’s Helmet with 120% fortification and Hammerblock isn’t looking too bad.
- Necklace: Nightforge Gorget with Deathblock gem. This is always a hard thing to part with until I can stabilize my Epic gear so I have Deathblock and higher Fortification elsewhere. Some Fortified 125% Gloves with a yellow and green slot would be ideal as I could stick a PRR gem in with the Deathblock gem. It’s too easy in places to get a Death Ward buff dispelled, so I never leave the airship without this. I’d rather have a Dodge 8% or better item here, if not elsewhere.
- Trinket: Mummified Bat. Of all the gear I have, trinkets are in the worst shape. Ideally, a Planar Focus item with Insightful DEX +3 would be fine, but a Shimmering Arrowhead might be the better thing for slowing anything with Crippling. Combined with Improved Deception, this could be a great thing.
- Cloak: A Drow Piwafwi. The basic Hide/Move Silently allows easy stealth movement but also has that funny Invisibility Guard (like the Drow Slavers, it gives you effective Improved Invisibility for a bit and so slows down aggro) but also Improved Sneak Attack +5 to boost weapon damage. I need to add something better since only the SA effect is working here…
- Belt: Belt of the Sun Soul. The Concentration +15, Insightful WIS +2 and CON +7 is very welcome.
- Ring #2: A Seal of House Avithoul. DEX +7. Excellent for boosting Sneak Attack damage and increases the Improved Deception effect since I also have this working on Harper Enchantment. Enemies, even red-names, spin quite a bit, allowing for a lot of extra damage.
- Gloves: Fortified 105% of Speed VI. This is likely the place to add in greater Epic fortification or DEX or Dodge later. I’d love to find Speed as well until I reach level 27 and get the Blinding Speed feat to be permanently Hasted and get 15% ranged speed. I’m not sure what named item, aside from the Purple Dragon Gauntlets for healing amplification) would fit here. DEX +10 with Dodge 10%/Protection/Natural Armor 1+0 are possible to find by level 28.
- Boots: Boots of the Woodsman. After many trades of other commendations, these provide Insightful DEX +2 for more damage and some more movement speed. There are many, many better Epic boots to find later.
- Ring #1: Ring of Shadows, level 23. Blurry, Ghostly, a STR +5 gem, and Hide/Move Silently +17. I shouldn’t need the Drow Piwafwi with this ring, further emphasizing my need to dump that cloak.
- Bracers: Bracers of the Sun Soul. Boosts not only WIS but adds Insight bonuses to saves, AC and CON.
- Armor: Vestments of the Sun Soul. This completes the Way of the Sun Soul effects that reduce damage or provide emergency effects such as Restoration. Once I’m cocky enough for chasing 375 PDK favor, I’ll unlock the Spider-Spun Caparison.
- Goggles: Lenses of the Woodsman. Gives me Seeker +6, an attack bonus and True Seeing, allowing me (in combination with the Sun Soul set) to retire my Teraza’s Perfect Sight, which is why my Helm slot has just a loot-gen item. I was trying originally for some Drow Smoke Goggles but, after three runs through the first Darkening quests and besting “The Battle of Eveningstar” thrice, the drop just wasn’t there. I did score two pairs of Grave Wrappings, one to keep and another to hand over to Gwynncletica, my young Shintao for her later glory. Perhaps Shadowsight would be good here as an alternative later.
Currently, Mericletica blasts things at sustained 100-120 damage with around 20-40 Sneak Attack damage, with 400-500 critical hits once her Archer’s Focus is full.
At DEX 44 or so, Mericletica is a surprisingly hard-hitting powerhouse. I’m starting my Elite run into the Devil Battlefield to complete the Shavarath quests there for Yugoloth Favor Potions. Combined with DDO Elixirs and the special House Deneith potions, I’ll get +6 more to DEX on-hand for crunch fights. It looks like, with items and destinies, Meri should ultimately have around 48-52 DEX base by end-game with +6 in reserve. I need to visit Szyncletica the star-thrower to check how she reached a 60 after two lives and emulate that.
Right now, Dodge bonus isn’t where I want it to be. It’s 21% if I’m in Ocean Stance, but it can reach 30%. I need to retool what I have, starting with that cloak slot. An Adamantine Cloak of the Wolf, with Dodge 8% and Improved Seeker +5 might do the trick. If I can add points to Walking with Waves for 3% more while in Ocean Stance without messing up my Epic Moment, that’s one help.
While I prefer the strong, generally aggressive hireling duo of Albus, the level 20 Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther to take aggro-point, Mericletica wasn’t doing too badly on her own in the wilds of the Devil Battlefield. She took out her first pit fiend with some clever jumping atop the Tower of Despair’s outer gate, pelting the thing from above as it received punches from the Warforged Titan below.
The Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, overall, boosts weapon damage, Dodge and Dexterity, while adding in the ranged ki magic balls as a “finish him!” move with a low HP enemy. It’s actually turning out as a great ranged destiny because it reinforces the zen of this build, leveraging ki and the natural monastic abilities for strong defense and damage. Only Shiradi Champion will be better in general damage and versatility with the bow, but at a defense disadvantage if I read it right.
I’m going to race through Legendary Dreadnought to get another Twist slot unlocked and upgraded, to reach Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar as soon as possible.
There’s still a lot of items I can farm as well. I see many runs into “The Weapons Shipment” for that Shimmering Arrowhead Hopefully I can bring Saekee or others along to increase my farming odds. I owe him a lot.
I foresee an Epic XP leveling freeze at level 27 to avoid wasting my last Epic Destiny feat slot. While training two Primal destinies to qualify, I’ll take Overwhelming Critical as an Epic Feat at 24, changing the bow critical multiplier from x3 to x4, I think. I’ll take Toughness as the first Epic Destiny feat at level 26, Blinding Speed at level 27, continuing destiny training until I can take Doubleshot (10% added, 15% total) as the last Epic Destiny feat.
I hope to have a video of this build in fully-trained GMoF, as well as Shiradi and Shadowdancer in the coming weeks.