Zen and Fulfilling the Unforgiving Minute

With both capped Ryncletica and Pynthetica, I’m completing and experimenting with as many epic destinies to see which have additional options or abilities with melee or ranged fighting, respectively.

I’ve heard nice things about Divine Crusader in past comments here. Generally a melee destiny that really amps up a Favored Soul, Cleric or Paladin, it turns out that the Zen Archer, also a WIS-based class, can enjoy a bit of fun with it, too.

That fun doesn’t come from Consecration, Sacred Ground or Crusade, although it’s a nice option to cause great harm to enemies gathering around you while you’re still firing away. I take the extra WIS in the destiny since both Pyn and Ryn (also training up that destiny) loves the WIS for extra Ranged Power bonuses, ki related advantages or dark finishers.

In fact, many of the abilities in this destiny aren’t optimized or useful with ranged attacks for Pyn–save one.

That’s the sixth innate ability: Zeal of the Righteous. You can use it every 4 minutes. Activate it and you get, among other things, +50 Ranged Power and +50 to Doubleshot. One point of each disappears every 3 seconds until gone.

Now I have around 31% standing Doubleshot at all times, outside of any destiny. With tier 5 of DC completed, I have 55 Ranged Power. That’s not a lot compared to other destinies, clearly. From the total, 30 of that comes from Epic Power feat bonuses, 9 from Harper Agent, only 12 from the destiny itself, and 4 from an Epic Dynamistic Quiver.

Kick on the “Zealous Zen” mode and my Doubleshot goes to 81%, and Ranged Power from 55 to 105. Nice.

But we are so not done.

Kick on Ten Thousand Stars and Doubleshot goes to 100 (20 Monk levels x 5) + 31 base + 50 = 181%, and Ranged Power to 55 + 43 (WIS) + 50 = 148 — more if I use a Yugoloth potion or other WIS-boosting abilities.

The joy is the slow decay of Righteous Zeal. TTS lasts 30 seconds and Manyshot goes for 20 seconds. Zeal will last 2.5 minutes.

I can start Zeal and then immediately use TTS. The cooldown of TTS is the same as its duration (30 seconds), I can switch to Manyshot just after TTS is over. In 30 seconds, Zeal has dropped about 10 stacks so I still have its 120 Doubleshot + 31 base + 40 = 191%. Ranged Power drops to 55 base + 80 (20 BAB x 4) + 40 = 175.

Another 10 seconds pass after Manyshot is done (30 seconds total) of the shared cooldown of Manyshot and TTS and another 10 stacks of Zeal are gone.

I return to TTS. Doubleshot is 100 + 31 + 30 = 161%. Ranged Power is 55 base + 43 (WIS) + 30 = 128.

Thirty more insane seconds of pummeling my targets go by. Manyshot still has at least 1 minute left on its own 2 minute cooldown and won’t be up fast enough to use again before Zeal expires. I wait 30 more seconds and 10 less stacks until TTS is back…and I have a lot of passive ki regenerated to do it again.

Doubleshot is 100 + 31 +10 = 151%. Ranged Power is 55 base + 43 + 10 = 102.

When neither TTS or Manyshot are up, I still keep sizeable bonuses to Doubleshot and Ranged Power.

Life might be more interesting to start off Zeal at maximum with the shorter but greater power of Manyshot. Starting at 50 Zeal:

Doubleshot 120 + 31 + 50 = 202%. Ranged Power is 55 base + 80 (20 BAB x 4) + 50 = 185.

And 1 minute 30 seconds after the last stack of Zeal faded, I can use Zeal of the Righteous again.

With all the armor-busting power I have with a tier 2 Thunder-Forged longbow with Dragon’s Edge (35% armor-piercing and up to 105 Bleeding damage on critical hits), that’s going to be incredible to try out on a raid, much less some quests.

Keep in mind that I stand still so I can add another 15 Ranged Power atop these numbers, thanks to Precise Shot’s Archer’s Focus, and that I stand in Ultimate Earth Stance for a +1 to my bow’s critical multiplier. Divine Crusader’s Blessed Blades and Celestial Champion also augments critical threat range, improve my weapon by adding my Law and Good alignments to my bow, and more Doubleshot if I’m struck (and survive the hits).

Two and an half minutes is a very long time to smack something very hard with a lot of arrows. I can imagine using this on the arena raids such as “Fire on Thunder Peak,” ridding the field of a lot of undead trash, as well as being ready to take down the uber magma brutes, the Stone Meridian and certainly put some hurt on the dragons.

But I like videos to demonstrate things. To do so, I needed a quest where you can see all the enemies of the battlefield without a lot of motion and also have overwhelming numbers of enemies that aren’t level 1 kobolds.

I thought “The Weapons Shipment” on Elite would be a fitting place to show how to clear the room, don’t you think? Scale up the number of enemies by adding a couple of hardy hirelings to redirect aggro for a few moments (as any good sniper prefers in a crowd fight), and voila.

Not even the ranged-aligned Shiradi Champion has all the innate nastiness of Zeal. Most importantly, the Zen Archer’s innate miss-chance, high spell resistance and (with Epic levels and gear) stronger reflex saves and PRR, make it a great trash clearing machine.

Note how little I move around: That’s the Zen Archer’s trademark.

Enjoy the carnage!

 

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Did Someone Say ‘Raid?’

I have run more raids in the last month than in the last six months, and not one of them has been a PUG.

It’s thanks mostly to a neat idea of my guild’s co-leader. He activated a user chat channel and invited several other guilds that work similiarly to our own to listen in.

The result had turned much like a concept I’ve seen in an gaming anime I’ve mentioned before: “Log Horizon.”

In this show, we see our protagonist, who never joined a guild in the past. Rather, he and several others once formed a super-party that called themselves the “Debouchery Tea Party.” The members came from other guilds or none at all and were legends to other players and guilds for beating the most difficult raids in their D&D-like game, “Elder Tale.”

The user chat channel has formed something much like this. On Fridays and Sundays, members chat and consider what to run, form up and go.

This meta-guild possesses a lot of experience and has a lot of fun in taking on the big raids at any difficulty they want. Only lag is our greatest enemy.

Pynthetica has dived into the most raids. Her Zen Archer role appears to help others in party with trash control and when members are pursued by too much trash. With high defenses, low threat and long range, I can pick off trash, and, keeping stationary, keep up DPS on raid bosses, as typical in “Fire on Thunder Peak.”

Pyn also works well in “Fall of Truth.” Using only Precise Shot, I can target trash, the disciples and The Truthful One without aggroing most of the arena or putting myself too close to danger. Having the ability to give burst DPS for takedowns is beneficial, especially since I don’t have to run to a boss to make it happen. With two burst options (Manyshot or Ten Thousand Stars) every 30 seconds, Pyn is consistent.

Ryncletica has joined in as well. Her switch-hitting DPS of star-throwing or two-weapon fighting works great so far in boss fights and trash clearing. I try to keep her in the rear guard, like Pyn. But Ryn is a solo combat specialist. I’m grooming her as a mini-boss destroyer as she can whittle them down and keep enemies busy while others in party handle the central objectives or concentrate on tanking.

All this raiding helps my own experience and confidence but reinforces the viability of the Poison Master and Zen Archer builds in repeated runs through the most challenging content, including a few runs through Legendary Shroud. We tried a Legendary Hound of Xoriat run but, like Heroic, keeping ever-increasing trash out of the puppy fight was overwhelming us.

Runs into “Defiler of the Just” have also been risky. If lag didn’t kill us, the strategy usually worked. But clearing trash with Epic Wards or as Red Names pushed Pyn’s (and everyone’s) versatility to her limits.

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Hm. Perhaps we should reset and try again. About five too many Pit Fiends.

The raids also allow upgrading of weaponry or obtaining great new items. Pyn now has a Tier 2 Thunder-Forged Longbow—the first tier 2 TF item on any of my characters. Ryn received a potent Outfit of the Celestial Guardian during a Legendary Tempest’s Spine run. Pyn should also be ready to create her first Legendary Green Steel blank longbow sooner than later.

Above all, the politeness, patience and positive attitude of our meta-guild makes for very enjoyable raiding. Opportunities to flag are offered as often as raids to ensure we can keep our raid parties full and powerful. Often, veteran members put their ingredients and named items up for roll to help newer members begin upgrading gear.

Raiding with this group of happy, experienced players put the ‘awesome’ in their “The World is Just Awesome” cooperative teamwork.

This is why Dungeons & Dragons Online is still around to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The world continues to remain filled with awesome. Not just the content, but the players as well.

Thanks to the hard work of everyone at Turbine and to our meta-guildmates. You know who you are.

Theatricality and Deception, Part 3: Iron Ninja

Her small elven form, the tips of her pointed ears barely visible through her order’s traditional black mask, quietly, swiftly dropped through a hole above the holding cell of several slaves-to-be, a mix of human, elven and even Drow.

She ignored the stench within the hole; apparently it was a dumping hole for a latrine once. Apparently, dumping fecal waste falling from above into a slave’s cell was a mere matter of efficiency for the Drow who commanded here.

But these were not the Drow of Ryncletica’s kind. They were an otherworldly sort. Rather than meeting the challenges of Vulkoor, these Drow worshipped Lolth, the Spider Queen goddess.

Ordinarily, Ryncletica would respect Drow as Drow: Let the best man win, as Vulkoor would demand. But these were Drow of a different bent. They wanted domination. They ignored Vulkoor. And they chose to enslave even their own kind.

Ryncletica’s vows of law and order, combined with her personal distaste of spiders and the fact that one overgrown spider goddess was threatening to rip her home world into rocks for the Demonweb, gave her renewed assurance that these things that call themselves Drow were not worthy.

In the cell, the slaves inside gave little reaction to her falling from above, save to move away, closer to the rocks and bars of the cell’s interior. Ryncletica’s eyes were only visible to them, but she could see a few of them relax slightly as she lifted a single index finger to her covered mouth as a caution to stay quiet. The two Drow slaves in the cell narrowed their eyes in examination. She knew what they were thinking. Familiar form, yet not the same.

She pulled out her shortswords and slammed them into the cell door, letting her weapon’s many enchantments easily destroy the simple wards that kept the door magically sealed to hold the captives inside.

The hushed but tangible sounds of rushed footfalls came from ahead. “The door is open! Search for the slave that did this!” one of the Drow guards said. The others of the party scattered, searching the darkness and dank with their enhanced night-vision for the intruder, confident that they would find their prey.

From above, something disguised as just another stalactite fell towards a lone guard, green, icy Ninja Poison dropping from her outstretched swords…


 

Ryncletica may be level 30 but her power continues to grow amazingly well. So much so that she’s doing something only Szyncletica the star-thrower has done often: Soloing Epic Elite adventures.

That news might be a “meh” moment to a few of you that eat Epic Elite quests as snacks. But consider that I don’t use multiclassed characters. I’m using everything a single class offers, while synergizing Epic Destinies, feats, skills and gear as anyone else would do. Ryncletica has reached a personal pinnacle where the use of theatrical and deceptive tools as well as some of the better gear and training now raise her to a level none of my melee Monks have achieved.

For me, in the past, Epic Elite meant a very bloody fight, even with a full party. But now I know that the first and foremost requirement in entering EE is fortification beyond 150 and at least 500 HP. At 200+ fortification and 800ish HP,  I can withstand several 100 point critical hits without worry and need to pay attention only to Red Named and champions, who break those rules and most of my defenses.

The key to Ryncletica’s challenge (and successes, so far) is using the basics inherent in the class. Stealth. Quick strikes. Doublestrike. Techniques to disable and slay.

That is, most of her Heroic enhancements remain her fundamentals of attack, defense, and especially escape. Epic feats, destinies only improve the enhancement’s effectiveness.

Technique remains the prime skill. I don’t engage everything at once. I pick off the weakest and leave me plenty of time to pummel the toughest without any enemy reinforcements helping out. I’ll scatter the enemies, cause them to search for me. And when the moment is right. I strike.

So let’s break down the Epic Poison Master.

Offenses

Ryncletica is primarily a two-weapon melee fighter with the complete Two-Weapon Fighting line and the Epic Destiny feats Blinding Speed for permanent Haste and Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting for more doublestrike. She’s got 32% Doublestrike with current options. Every ki weapon she wields is a Vorpal weapon courtesy of Ninja Spy training.

Being Drow, like Szyncletica the Shuricannon, Ryn holds a powerful alternative to melee fighting when it is unsafe to engage an enemy at close range. As a melee fighter, her weaponry slices and dices rapidly, with large levels of ki generated by that. But she is also quite capable of taking out anything using her shuriken almost as rapidly as her swords, missing only some of the ranged/thrown feats to optimize that skill.

Ninja Poison is the central damage dealer. No matter what the weapon, Ninja Poison is delivered to any enemy except Poison-immunes (most demons, devils, constructs and undead). This damage-over-time effect accelerates her killing power, debuffs any Poison resistance by 100% and lasts longer than other DoTs.

Secondary damage comes from Sneak Attacks and any destiny training effects, which comes frequently as I bluff them with the Unyielding Strike attack. Unloading Ninja Poison via the Touch of Despair finisher also debuffs an enemy against the quintessential negative-energy attack, the Touch of Death.

As for weaponry, I’ve noted it before in a recent post. I’m using the strongest Venomous shortswords I have, both given Festival Icy Burst, used against most enemies. I change up weapons as necessary: two Elemental Fury swords for most elementals, two Thunder-Forged shortswords for DR-busting, or Epic Forester Brush Hooks for metalline/aligned bypassing against Maruts and pit fiends.

Defenses

Ryncletica now shows the most impressive defensive stats of any Monk I’ve made, more so than even my “Little Mountain” Shintao Monk, Lynncletica.

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Currently training the Unyielding Sentinel destiny, Ryncletica boasts the best defenses I’ve had on a Monk. She has a 97 PRR with 34% Dodge, 20% Concealment, 25% Incorporeality with 152 AC and 215 Fortification. All these numbers have saved her from devastating damage against Epic Elite Champions and some bosses, but that’s half the story.

Earth Stance gives +15 stacking PRR, and she wears the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian for +38 PRR by enhancement. Unyielding Sentinel’s Heed No Pain gives +30 PRR and some Insightful PRR bracers add another 15. By twisting the tier 2 ability Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnought for +20 PRR, Ryn can reach 117 PRR in her current destiny. While in Grandmaster of Flowers to use ki for maximum offensive options (such as the crowd-destroying Everything is Nothing during trash-ridden raids such as “Fire on Thunder Peak”), the Standing with Stone ability and its +15 PRR will be combined with Improved Combat Expertise to reach 38 (Outfit) + 15 (Earth Stance) + 15 (Insightful bonus bracers) 15 (Standing with Stone)+ 20 = 103 PRR.

I did consider the Shintao Monk enhancement Iron Skin to give additional PRR, but it would take away from Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack bonuses and Crippling Strike at tier 5 of its enhancements. The miss-chance defenses help more than additional PRR, anyway.

The Legendary Feat Scion of the Astral Plane raised her Dodge cap to 34%. With a Lesser Displacement item (three are available from high-end content), she can reach Dodge/Incorporeality/Concealment defenses of 34/25/25%. Using blinding techniques such as Flash Bangs give a brief 50% Concealment.

Tactics

Superheroes like the Batman or Black Widow are more than their weapons. They use their cunning to help fight enemies, even when outnumbered–provided they focus on keeping every else they fight busy, confused, off-balance, or ineffective.

A ninja is about deception and subtle attack, using stealth and non-damaging resources to move the enemy to where she wants them to be, or leveraging the enemy’s expected behavior to her advantage.

One game-changing Epic Destiny feat changed my fighting dynamic significantly: Dire Charge. This is a stunning ability that uses your highest ability score modifier +20 and any Stunning modifiers from gear (I use a Seal of House Dun’Robar).  The stun created by ramming into an enemy leaves nearby enemies helpless for 6 seconds, much like Stunning Fist,  but a mass effect. I eliminate them quickly as the combined Sense Weakness and No Mercy generate over 60% more damage with additional modifiers.

Often I’ll use distance to lure solitary enemies, using shuriken, and then use Dire Charge or the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood finisher to pick them off. Isolating enemies fits the ninja skill set but is also a safer option than charging into a heavily-armed group of CR 42+ enemies.

In the event I have to dive into a large fight where crowd control isn’t practical, such as the end-battle in “The Battle of Eveningstar,” I use my shuriken with a Celestia as the off-hand weapon that delivers area-of-effect fireballs and flame while I ran about, keeping the spawns down while concentrating on the boss. I often soften up champions, which frequently have attacks that bypass my strongest defenses, with ranged attacks.

More techniques include fighting when pulling isn’t an option. When a mob gathers up to surround me, I let them–and then throw a Flash Bang to stun and blind them. I can use Dire Charge then to stun a few longer and then kill them, or fade into stealth and regroup.

When the mob is too large for grinding them down, it’s the hate-magnet dummy created by the Diversion ability that can not only save me but a party as well. Often Orange and Red Named enemies aren’t pulled to the dummy, but their support will be, which will at least limit my fight, hopefully at some distance from the dummy, to a fewer number.

The essential objectives are the only items on the Iron Ninja’s playbook on Epic Elite. Most combat-oriented optionals are skipped for speed or avoided for safety. Likewise, it’s against the ninja way to slaughter boxes and barrels; breakable bonuses are skipped. These leave you vulnerable since enemies will hear your footfalls as you run around barrel-slaying.

But why talk about it? Let me show you how Ryncletica uses every trick she has to take on the hordes in the combat-heavy EE “House of Broken Chains.” House Avithoul’s guards are no slouches with many critical-hitting blademasters (often champions) to handle, and spiders about to throw me off my stealth game if I’m not prepared.

But playing Epic Elite requires you to be prepared. Perhaps not as crazy-prepared as the Batman, but similarly able to adjust to any scenario. In this quest, I learn quickly how to match muscle against muscle by creating an army of my own from House Avithoul’s resources.

The video will be closed-captioned in YouTube: Click on the CC button to view them.

Since this video, Ryn has completed two of the three Demonweb quests alone as well on EE. Whether she’ll try the enemy-zerging “Reclaiming the Rift,” I don’t know.

And now I’m considering if Ryncletica has the chops to pull off a melee-based solo Heroic Shroud like her star-throwing cousin. If I do so, I’ll let you know.

How a Ninja Causes a Bug

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So, here’s Ryncletica, now a powerhouse fighter at level 30. She’s continuing to train every destiny to gain enough fate points to have Sense Weakness and other abilities twisted for raids and to boost her Epic Elite combat prowess.

I started up the Epic saga that pretty much requires everything in Eveningstar and beyond, starting with “Impossible Demands.” Just to be sporting, I enter with Iessin the Rogue/Shadowdancer in Epic Elite.

The fight with Priestess Vicala begins strangely because I couldn’t target her at first. For some reason I kept targeting the door behind her but my sword strokes pass through her. I shift position to get Vicala to move, and she does, towards the locked end-quest chest.

Among other spells I shake off, she begins smacking me with a hundred points of Divine Punishment. I return the favor with a hundred points of Ninja Poison ticking on her. Here’s the combat log at the peak of the battle:

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 75 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 97 points of poison damage.

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 79 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

. . .

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 85 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 87 points of poison damage.

(Combat): Vicala Szind’s divine punishment hit you for a total of 79 points of light damage after 37 were blocked by energy resistance.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 99 points of poison damage.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 103 points of poison damage.

(Combat): You hit Vicala Szind for 97 points of poison damage.

Helping me reduce the punishing Light damage is a cloak that has Light Resistance 37, a very handy thing against evil clerics.

She goes all “Super Saiyan” on me as expected in the quest’s start. You know what that is: Drow priestesses sacrifice any innocent to gain a super buff that recharges their life and reduces your attack effectiveness for a time.

But the Ninja Poison DoTs persistently damage her, even in super-mode. As she returns to normal, her body “hiccups” every 2 seconds as the Ninja Poison dots her with 107 points of damage. Her Divine Punishment dots stop after about 15 seconds.

So, Vicala sacrifices the Purple Dragon Knight and then leaves, closing the door–which she does. I move back to the normally-safe area by the entrance and shrine.

And then the very pissed-off Vicala comes storming back through the door. She’s not following her preset patrol. She attacks me and the passive Iessin–not just twice but three times, also sacrificing the already-stricken Purple Dragon Knight a second time as she goes Super Saiyan once more.

Proof that, while Divine Punishment can deal debilitating damage, Ninja Poison throws up to 20 stacks of the stuff and lasts 15 seconds per stack, ticking damage every 3 seconds.

Ninja Poison ruined my normal attempt to rescue all hostages without the priestess noticing.

And it left me a momentary challenge on how to turn off Ninja Poison for the first fight or I’d keep turning the priestess into more than the usual psychotic murderess she is. (The answer there would be to switch off the Poisoned Soul and Sting of the Ninja enhancements.)

To the defense of the developers, this isn’t so much of a bug than a glitch. Ninja Poison was too effective on her at the start on this first attempt. Often some NPCs that fight then go inactive have any lasting player damaging effects removed. Looks like Vicala didn’t get that treatment on the first attempt.

I reset the quest, tried again and completed. However, during the run, Vicala apparently was enjoying a particular piece of furniture upstairs and glitched again, halting her patrol. I took advantage of that, rescued all the hostages and then dispatched her.

#ninjaproblems