Zen and the Quest for 5,000 Favor

I’ve updated the Zen Archer build information with the final results of my experience with it. Without sounding my own gong too loudly, it’s got to be my most versatile build. That’s not saying much since I’ve only designed two builds. (The Poison Master is the second.)

Pynthetica, reaching level 30 some time ago, is accomplishing what I’ve not achieved with no other character: 5,000 total favor.

Okay, okay, you may snicker. Just cheer for me a little, those of you who’ve made many Heroic and Epic Completionist characters. I’m a slower player. (Perhaps that’s because I’m an older player, one who has played Pong on Atari in the Seventies, and Space Invaders in arcades, oh, long before many of you were born.)

Sometimes I celebrate things that may seem mundane to the power-gamers among the player base. I’m cheerful because the build has defied what some critics claimed it could not do. In short, she’s not only a survivor, but a dominating solo and group attacker as well as a strong raid character.

I won’t go over the hows and why again: You can find that easily on the build thread, as well as by searching for “Zen” in the search bar of this blog.

Getting 5,000 favor, as Gamer Geoff and Girl have done not long ago, gives you the choice of a +5 ability tome, as you may know. I’m getting a DEX tome for now.

After researching what I’d have to do get that much favor at the time I read Geoff’s article, I was heartbroken. I’d yet to get into the recent raids with groups I felt comfortable with. Some quests and most raids are virtually impossible to solo.

And I’m hitting that same wall that Geoff did once you got to around 4,700. My game-fu is nearly sufficient to climb that wall.

But lots of fresh new content has raised the total possible favor to 5,518 as of Update 30. That’s plenty of room to skip some raids and a few quests that just aren’t fun or practical to do.

If there’s one thing that Pyn can do for most quests with skill is sneak right through them. As long as the objectives don’t require mass slaughter, she moves through many adventures as unnoticed as a draft from a flying bug.

Of course, you can “cheat” to get Elite favor for several quests. Rather than sweat blood by diving into an Epic Elite quest, you can complete the Heroic Elite version if one is available. This works for chains such as The Red Fens and Magnificent Cabal, where the quests are the same but the difficulty is boosted. But it won’t work for modified versions of similar chains (and good on it, too, since these offer additional favor) such as Epic Gianthold and perhaps some quests in Epic Three-Barrel Cove.

It appears you can’t complete a quest on Heroic Elite and gain credit if you’ve already completed the adventure on any Epic difficulty as well. So, for quests I’ve already done on Epic difficulty that will hand my butt back to me in small to-go cups on solo play (such as the latest Codex and the Shroud flagging quests and the Archon’s Trial series), Epic Hard will have to do unless I can gather a few friends to help.

Thankfully, a number of folks from the Raiding Party of Greater Awesomeness have offered to help me (and help themselves, in turn) when we are able to connect, so that’s a plus.

I was greeted by something I’ve never seen before in my game mail that sparked all of this.

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Okay, I’m so lazy that it took 6 years for me to get 4,000 favor, ever. But I’m here now.

Reaching 4,000 has only emboldened me to get it all done. It’s rather fun to mow through some quests that were a bit harder at level. It’s more surprising when some upper-level Heroic quests try to hand you your head when a Champion at level 35 shows up in a Level 19 Heroic Elite adventure.

What’s amusing for me are completing quests I’ve really never completed before. Mostly, these are Necropolis quests. I’ve done Necro 4 quests before (but not the raids) but never have delved into Necro 3. That’s changing. I’m flagged for “The Mark of Death” so I’d love to take a stab at it.

I may also complete as much of the favor available from challenges as well.

I still need to complete “The Temple of Elemental Evil, Part 2,” on Heroic Elite, but it’s still bugged and uncompletable as of this writing and Update 30.

As of this writing, Pyn is at around 4,700 favor. There are a handful of raids I could do to help. After watching a YouTube video where some level 28 monkcher completed “A Vision of Destruction” on solo (enjoying his Adrenaline boosts), I think I’d have no problem taking down Suulomades on Elite with a bit of care–and friends, if available.

Pyn’s ability to kill at long range may seem mundane, but she’s easily the best character I’ve played in terms of balanced defensive/offensive simplicity. She’s no Szyncletica the Shroud Beater, but Pyn can actually survive and beat several places that even the Shuricannon can’t do. While my Poison Master’s DPS easily outpaces the Zen Master, her defenses are not as strong as Pynthetica’s complete miss-chance and higher PRR and AC. Much of that for the Poison Master might be rectified through a bit more epic gear, yet my Drow Ryncletica is limited to only 3 minutes of Displacement from a Green Steel clicky, while Pyn’s Elven Dragonmarks and Harper Agent’s Magic of Patience enhancement gives her 3 uses of Displacement at nearly 6 minutes per use.

As for comparisons with Artemistika, my all Elven Ranger Deepwood Stalker, their damage is very comparable, but Pyn’s all-Monk features generate stronger defenses to last longer than any Ranger. I think Misty should have a DPS edge with Improved Archer’s Focus and a few other ranged feats and Ranger-unique powers, but her general defenses suffer no matter the epic destiny, while Pyn’s defenses stay good no matter the destiny.

As I’ve said, a build’s viability is really a matter of play style, not how hard or many enemies you can hit or how many classes you glom together.

Let me know any tips or tricks you can share about getting 5,000 favor, especially if you are a Completionist or Reincarnation vet.

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You CAN Beat City Hall–The Joy of Jumping

Another fun thing about being a Monk is your long-jump ability.

While a few other classes have this now (but with limits and longer cooldowns), the Monk’s Abundant Step is ki-powered and has a short 3-second cooldown, allowing you to chain your jumps from high locations to travel much longer distances than any other class.

One of my favorites is the materialization point in the volcanic ruins of the Twelve after Bazbeau the genie transporter sends you out of Meridia. Familiar to all of us, you’re likely coming from a Vale of Twilight quest run, or the venerable Shroud raid. I run off of this slab, hitting Abundant Step and fly–

Easily “field goaling” the gate near the airship entrance and landing at the airship tower door with extra glide to spare.

Another fun one to do is during the “Tower of Despair” raid. Your team heads up the first tunnel to find a damsel calling for help, standing ahead. You fall in a pit–or you’re supposed to, unless you’re a Monk. You make a jump and watch everyone else in the raid party fall while you’re on the opposite side. I wonder if I could continue on the raid from there because a party returns here after the J&J fight, with the pit (which drops you to the Jailer and Judge) is covered by a flaming force field on the second passingby.

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I learned also to climb to the highest point in the high hills around, and the tower above, the Twilight Forge raid entrance.

I can easily get Journal #7 through a series of jumps along the High Road. That’s documented in the wiki, but doing it and completing it are two different things.

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I’ve explored, in depth, the hidden back garden within the fallen monastery in the Soami Gardens, near the quest, “Monastery of the Scorpion.” You can’t reach this inner area without a great jump.

In “Let Sleeping Dust Lie,” I can still reach the upper ledge to find the second journal before the first. I can also jump up into the spawning ogre tunnel to remove the ogres when defending Lycosa the spider queen.

The platforms where levers deactivate force fields needed for your party to pass some bridges in the “Vault of Night” raid are no problem for Monks.

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I can stand atop the Stormreach Harbor statue and its column of light.

I can leap across the first electrical floor chasm you encounter in “Spies in the House,” to the nearest circular platform, in stealth, without alerting the archer guard there.

Getting around high ledges in the Underdark is absolutely fun.

I’m practically BASE-jumping back to the start if I leap towards there from the highest point of the Storm Horns mountains, guiding for what seems like several minutes.

So when Eveningstar was introduced, I saw my new challenge: the city hall tower, the highest intact building.

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“I’m queen of the castle! I’m queen of the castle!”

 

I say “intact” because, after I scaled to the top of town hall, I saw my next challenge, the ruins of the Amaunator church.

(You want to know how I got to the top of the tower? That’s very sweet.)

Unfortunately, even a jump from the top of city hall  is too short for me to reach the innards of the invisible-walled church ruins. “No desecrations!” I hear the devs say in my imagination. “The Drow have burned it down. You don’t have to go pick through the embers.”

Perhaps the invisible walls are also there because the church sits at the edge of the map toward the King’s Forest.

What places have you found it fun to reach in the course of your adventures?

Reimagining the Monk

fallinglynnWhile I don’t think the Monk class as a whole are underpowered (far from it), there are some serious arguments on the Shintao Monk’s future being raised on several threads in the past. The Henshin Mystic is also a peeve to me.

The Shintao represents the traditional form of the Monk: Unarmed combat.

Shintaos keep to a strict use of STR to determine damage from unarmed combat and DEX for the attack rolls. In theory, the higher your STR, the more damage you deal.

The problem for me is, unlike the Ninja Spy tree, there isn’t much versatility in the Shintao or Mystic trees, and that needs fixing.

It’s Not About More Damage

It’s been a bit since Lynncletica was an Epic character, a hardy Shintao Monk that has soloed the Subterrane, and braved the haunted deeps of Thunderholme. She’s on her way now to Epicland and dedicating her training to be a raid tanker.

With the recent healing amplification adjustments, Lynncletica’s already-potent HP recovery with Healing Ki (which would bring back 1/3 of her health at the least) will likely bring back 2/3, not to mention the vampiric boosts to Fists of Light.

But that’s not what a central thread or two on the state of Monks is concentrating on.

To most of the posters, it’s all about damage.

Now, I’ve never had a problem landing powerful hits with Lynn. I clear things just fine. So I pose this argument: Perhaps some people are just too damned impatient and want to clear monsters with a Shintao Monk in the same way that a Barbarian does. That’s not the role of the class.

Monks are the lesser damaging of the melee classes by design. What? You expect to hit as hard with a fist as you would with a sword and very high STR? That’s incredulous. But that doesn’t mean that there may be some…some…lack of damage present on Monks in Epic levels.

This presumes one thing: You’re running a pure Monk. You can’t expect all the damage benefits of a pure Monk to be present in a splashed one. The better core abilities and enhancements appear at these higher levels.

I would tweak the Unarmed Strike feat to boost damage more for every Monk level, including Epic. That’s it. It doesn’t require scary recoding of handwraps as weapons, which could cause far greater game-breaking issues since handwraps have been notoriously unstable to be begin with. Such coding would affect crafted wraps, wraps already looted, and problematic wraps such as metal-laced ones or those with special features such as piercing.

Further, Epic Monks should gain perhaps an additional +5 Melee Power per level. This would require 20 Monk levels to receive. Otherwise you gain the usual Melee Power as all characters do.

I’m deliberately ignoring any points on the Shintao enhancements overall here. So where can the tree stand some re-tweaking to help with general unarmed damage?

What’s a Better Shintao Monk?

An improved Shintao Monk tree shouldn’t overly favor Earth Stance. In fact, it should have toggles to benefit the Shintao while in certain stances. Similar effects come from a specific item revered by Monks: the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers. You also see Monk stance effects augmented by the Grandmaster of Flowers Epic Destiny.

Now, adding stance-based augmentations shouldn’t change the focus of the Shintao’s role. She’s not a berserker like the Barbarian or a pure tanker or front-line fighter as the Paladin. I’d want to see greater adaptation of the tree against all manner of extraplanar, aberration and undead creatures. Moving over the old Tainted ki strikes and improving the levels of unarmed DR bypassing was not enough.

Some might point to the changes we got from the Tier 5 Meditation of War enhancement. From what I’ve read, this enhancement is often the most reviled, and I agree. To me, it’s a double-penalty. You already have less defense in Wind Stance, for instance. Why should Meditation of War magnify this for a poor boost to attack off-hand chance and damage? The DC boosts to tactical feats are laughable in Fire Stance as it lowers defense.

Water Stance is a natural defensive stance but Meditation of War drops damage by 10%. No wonder we never use this enhancement unless in Earth Stance, where you gain more PRR at the price of lower Dodge. It’s the lesser of many evils.

The Empty Hand Mastery enhancement should go from 1d6 to 1d10, instead of 1d8.

I would improve Touch the Void Dragon to add more STR boosts in addition to general ability scores.

The To Seek Perfection  core ability should give +4 WIS and +4 STR.

And, as there’s no Monk that has mastery of kamas, the Shintao should add an option to perfect damage with kamas.

See a pattern?

Shintao Monks determine damage by STR. WIS is needed for the Stunning DCs, sure, but because of the Monk’s need to have many ability scores somewhat balanced, we’ve never been able as players to give STR as great an emphasis as Fighters and Barbarians can do. This (and other adjustments) should reflect greater STR or Melee Power boosts to a revised Shintao tree in Heroic and Epic levels.

So, that’s it. I’d rather tweak enhancements and feats to significantly improve the Shintao’s overall damage rather than have recoding break not only the handwraps but the role of Shintaos themselves. The mechanics of the Monk are fine. To avoid breaking the game, simply tweak up the Monk granted Unarmed Strike feats and enhancements noted.

Defensively, the tree is fine. Epic Shintaos should be entering Epic Elite with no less than 150% Fortification; 200% would be optimal. Their unarmed strikes should be at 80-120 base damage per hit. Since they strike faster, this adds up quick and should offset the slower kill rate a bit over other melee classes that strike far harder.

Updating the Mystic

I loved the Henshin Mystic when it first arrived. The damage it can do with quarterstaves is extremely nasty, especially with criticals–more than the Shintao but a bit less than my Zen Archer build.

However, the Mystic lacks two critical points that must be addressed: Attack speed and defense.

I would suggest +3 untyped PRR per core enhancement, with a +10 PRR bonus by the last core. Perhaps as well, a +2 AC bonus per core. I wouldn’t also be against a new finishing move or enhancement for the tree that gives temporary Dodge or Ghostly.

Most importantly, the Mystic tree needs the same attack speed as the Thief-Acrobat, although they might reach that speed more slowly than the Acrobat. Most players tend to multiclass in Rogue just to get the Mystic’s speed up. That shouldn’t be necessary. The speed types should be anti-prerequisites as well, naturally.

One More Thing

Put back a simple Void Strike feat attack back in the game, already, for the love of God.

Ever since the initial enhancement tree introduction, no other Monk except the Mystic can use the Void Strike–and that required a ridiculous tier 5 enhancement. This completely broke the Moment of Clarity and Curse of the Void finishers, which require a Void attack.

Just make it a feat so that any class can add in a 1 to 6 damage attack that also reactivates those finishers when they are eligible in the normal leveling.

I hope the developers do not consider changing handwraps to weapons. This can be a disastrous decision because the coding for all types, including crafted ones, will kill the class until functionality is restored. I’m normally not particularly one to go “d00m!!1” about things, but I’ve been around the game long enough to see how even the slightest change in handwraps often screw up things in a very bad way.

Handwrap code is stable. Just boost the features of feats and update a few key enhancements in the Shintao and Mystic trees for versatility, speed, and defense.

Touch the Ninja Spy tree and I will be unhappy. It’s perfect as it is.