The Return of the Thwacky-Stick

QuinAndGholaFanWith three characters done with their Thunderholme raid runs to build their Thunder-Forged weapons, I wanted to get another character dusted off and armed.

I was also getting slightly burned out from the successes of ranged and thrown fighting. I’d been playing Pynthetica, Szyncletica and Paracleta a bit too much lately, and I wanted to go melee again since Lynncletica is fully-actualized as a strong tank for many raids, and the Poison Master Ryncletica needs some gear tweaks before she goes into Thunderholme.

It was time to return to Quintessica, my Henshin Mystic.

A long time ago in a D&D-styled game not so far away, I made a Fighter that used quarterstaves. I called them “thwacky-sticks” because the Fighter essentially beat the living crap out of everything with impunity.

I never quite got that same mojo with the Henshin Mystic…until now.

Quintessica’s sat on the sidelines for a handful of reasons, although I enjoyed playing her.

  1. Attack speed (in the original enhancement pass) was woefully slower than other builds using quarterstaves.
  2. Overall defense was very poor, especially for a melee build. It was like playing a Barbarian with less than no armor. When a character builds up aggro as the Mystic does, they need to absorb much more damage or attack faster.
  3. Building up effective spellpower (in the original enhancement tree) to increase the ki-powered damage types was doable but problematic. You could have a staff that increased spellpower or melee damage, but not both.

Thankfully, it looks like these problems seem licked back with Update 33, so now, I’m catching up.

Offensive Changes

The new enhancement tree removed the use of spellpower to increase damage to ki-powered spell-like abilities. In its place, ki-powered abilities are magnified by Monk levels, Melee Power, or both. The tree gains remarkable base Melee Power bonuses.

These changes have really boosted the overall attack performance. For example, Cauldron of Flame is an extraordinarily potent kill-zone maker since the Melee Power and Monk level bonuses stack up to roast a wide area. It’s your own personal Firewall and every melee cannot help but come face-to-face with you–and burn.

If a boss is inside the zone with you, smack them with the All-Consuming Flame fire debuff and the damage goes way up. Bonus: You can move within the flame circle now; it lasts 30 seconds and has a 30 second cooldown. For places where I expect to get swarmed, I have this attack ready. And you also gain an attack and PRR boost while inside a Cauldron.

The addition of melee power in the core enhancements also increase general weapon damage. Hits do seem harder and more effective. It doesn’t hurt that Lighting the Candle, the Fire/Force damage weapon buff, also scales with that Melee Power.

For my build, I chose to add CleaveGreat Cleave, and Whirlwind Attack. This allows me to spin a staff almost continually. You can guess how all that spinning works with enemies trying to kill me while immersed in a Cauldron of Flame. Did I mention the extra fun with glancing blows?

The doublestrike-boosting Quick Strike also has a faster cooldown, allowing more chances for extra hits. I’m trying to add any Doublestrike bonuses here and there.

While I like some of the melee attacks of Legendary Dreadnought, it appears that Fury of the Wild is the better ED to use with its glancing-blow benefits to two-handed weapons such as quarterstaves, the burst damage of Adrenaline and Unbridled Fury, as well as Fury Made Placid (WIS +6, improves Monk DCs and AC). As I’ve said, Mystics and Barbarians have similar features.

As for other destinies, Primal Avatar doesn’t have much save STR and a few weapon buffs. Unyielding Sentinel may be helpful in quasi-tanking since I can maximize CON from the tree, but perhaps Divine Crusader’s similar treats with Consecration and weapon buffs may add up, as well as STR bonuses that I desperately need for more damage.

As melees go, Quintessica kills more efficiently now, thanks to these boosted powers and the wider reach of the staff to smack things. Wear-and-tear on quarterstaves is still nasty, and for the first time ever, I’m seeing permanent damage build up on a Thunder-Forged weapon. Upgrading it through the tiers doesn’t change this so I’ll bind it and use a repair oil kit from the DDO Store (or use the Stone of Change) shortly now that it’s bound to my character anyway.

As for attack speed, the last core enhancement pays off. Serenity adds 15% boost to attack speed, which seems to stack with Melee Alacrity boosts. I missed this in an early review of the new tree. I liked the idea of taking the epic feat Blazing Speed for permanent Haste, but realize weapon damage is better and will work in Epic Feats and Destiny Feats such as Overwhelming Critical and Harbinger of Chaos. Being a Monk, I already have plenty of speed for running or attack.

Dire Charge is also under consideration. This mass-stun pairs well with the cleaving to affect mass damage to several enemies, especially if I can get them all close in a Cauldron to burn everything for 6 seconds while getting a beat-down with a staff. Its effectiveness will vary in raids, where often trash is warded or red-named and unaffected by stunning.

The only enemies I can’t burn are devils and demons. I make some Force damage, sure. I’ll just have to be more creative in some raids.

Defensive Changes

The core enhancements improved the inadequate defenses a tiny bit. For every core enhancement, you gained +3 PRR for a maximum of +15. That’s not much, but it’s still appreciated. Staying in Mountain Stance at its maximum tier adds another 15 PRR. I just might reach 100 PRR with some Insightful bonuses and the best Monk armor, Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, by level 29.

Adding to this, I also followed Lynn’s design and trained Combat Expertise for more AC. The epic destiny Legendary Dreadnaught’s Improved Combat Expertise adds 20 PRR with the companion feat active as an epic character, which could be easily twisted.

Quinn currently sees 61 PRR, with more later. Like other older characters in my dojo, I didn’t train every destiny early on for them, so Quinn’s second life is holding at 25-27 while I work on completing EDs to unlock fate slots as well as qualify for ED feats such as Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting. Glancing-blow damage is great when you have multiple cleave effects.

I added something from the Ninja Spy tree to help: Shadow Veil. That 25% incorporeality combined with Dodge, Blur and AC seem to get Quinn through many scrapes, although she still bruises more than Lynncletica. Ideally, Quinn should be 3/4 as durable as Lynn and have around the same HP. I am not confident of Quinn’s effectiveness as a tank, even an off-tank. Lynn’s PRR stands around 150-161 PRR with nearly 300% fortification and has more HP than Quinn, who would get pummeled without more PRR and fortification. “Stick and move” is really Quinn’s mantra.

General Stance and Feat Changes

The general Monk stance updates are mixed blessings. Water Stance gives greater Dodge and a really improved cap. Fire Stance received the critical threat multiplier from Mountain Stance, which, I believe has improved Threat.

The most useful feat changes involved Ku-kando and the Shining Star finishing move. The DCs of both are no longer CHA-based but WIS-based. While I can’t use Ku-kando as a Mystic, I have weaponized Shining Star, sending enemies into dance frenzies with its spell-like ability of Otto’s Irresistible Dance. This finisher is rapidly easy to activate since it uses Earth-Wind-Fire moves in sequence that don’t lengthen the time to activate with cooldowns.

There’s also the mob-draining power of Every Light Casts a Shadow. In groups, I just warn others to have Death Ward equipped (just in case of a nagging bug) before I throw myself into a pile of enemies and neg-level the lot of them.

I had forgotten that Every Light is a dark-ki attack, which means I can also activate the ninja-grade finishers such as the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood or the mage-stopping Pain Touch. I have to time the attack just right, but after neg-leveling all near me, the odds of this helpless-inducing paralysis sticking go way higher.

Although the Mystic’s damage often add Force damage as well, she’s got to be careful in raids like “Defiler of the Just,” where everything is fire-immune, naturally, as devils and demons. Some dragons also will laugh at her powers but Thunder-Forged weapons are meant to hurt most of them. Amplifying the fire damage as a Mystic is just a bonus.

Weapons

Quinn has a boatload of staves–perhaps too many, and few of them useful in epic. The three I see most effective at level cap are the Thunder-Forged staff (its Adamantine durability is really preferable as well as its Fire/vulnerability damage), the Epic Light Unending (specialized undead/boss beater) as well as a Legendary Green Steel Mineral or Triple-Positive staff (once I build them).

With all the destinies to power up to gain fate points, I’ll have plenty of time to gather ingredients to build these staves to full power.

Gear

The best thing I’ve done is to custom craft items for more STR, CON and WIS while upgrading items for Melee Alacrity, Devotion, and AC bonuses. I have most AC covered except Natural Armor, which needs more of those pesky Purified Eberron Dragonshard Fragments for my crafter. Thankfully, some runs in “Devil Assault” can get me Tokens of the Twelve to exchange for a few: Crafting can get expensive as you add Insightful abilities.

I find the Guardian’s Cloak a staple for damage mitigation on all my characters. And if one enters “Temple of the Deathwyrm” enough, eventually the challenge of surviving the “Red Light-Green Light” room requires that I’ll need a Jeweled Cloak from Epic Gianthold as a backup against the instant-death effect.

To sum up, I’ve been far more cocky in running quests. Knowing the areas help me lure (or avoid) enemies so I can effect maximum damage to many enemies in an enclosed space. When there are a mix of mages and melee, the woo-woo of mass-neg leveling increases my chances of taking all down a bit faster. I wonder if the Mystic can win the melee-only/no-spells game of “kill ’em all faster.”

It’s been a long while since I’ve made a video, and I think I’ve promised one for the Mystic for longer. Lots of real-life work to do first, but sometime soon I’ll get one posted.

 

 

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A Cautionary Tale of L-Shroud Part 4

Mericletica5Our most excellent multi-guild raid team took on a Legendary Shroud on Hard recently.

We should be old hats at this. But L-Shroud has a deceptive quality. Most of us have played Heroic-level Shroud many, many times before. So the familiar surroundings of L-Shroud, I suspect, causes some of us to let our guard down.

That’s a very bad thing to do in any part, but especially in Part 1, where the troglodytes that appear are all very dangerous. The sorcerers disintegrate. The fighters critically hit you with one strike, and so do the assassins. In this part, we break off two or three people to guard the portal beater’s backs. That’s a difficult job since the trash spawns at the portal as well as behind the team. And most of our player defenses on Legendary are much weaker.

For some reason this night, our DPS on portal beating was OK but you could tell it wasn’t our best. We complete Parts 1, 2 and 3 without much fuss.

It’s Part 4 that I worry about most now in Legendary Shroud.

The fight is exactly the same as in the Heroic version. Devils show up with a few friends to off you. After a time, Arraetrikos appears for the first time.

And this is where sub-par DPS will end your raid–and also why a solo Legendary run is nearly impossible.

Optimally, you kill Harry in one pass, else he returns with gnolls that heal him. In Legendary, the eight gnolls will heal Harry back from 1/4 HP to full health in less than 30 seconds. And the gnolls are hardy bastards; only one or two adventurers cannot destroy them fast enough. You need to devote the whole party to remove them fast, then switch over to Harry and peel back more HP on him.

But Harry is also being Harry, throwing fireballs and slapping adventurers hither and yon, killing a few. After a consecutive Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot volley to his face, Harry often turns his attention to me and spins meteors to my face, which will sting a bit, even with high Reflex saves, without some PRR.

That’s typically the point where your party is doomed, especially if your DPS was only adequate but not superior. One or two adventurers with only one or two death penalties may be OK, but once 5 or more in your party have suffered 3 or more deaths, their performance and HP are greatly reduced, increasing the chance for others to die and all but ensuring that Harry will triumph.

So, to those a little new to L-Shroud, here’s a tip or two for what its worth.

  1. Check your party DPS before entering. A full party is less important than a party that can rid the floor of portals and have the power to hurt Harry (or the gnolls) situationally. Not that I fault our raid party here (we love to have everyone play) but players under level 25 in the party probably hurt our chances that night.
  2. Ensure people have their portal-beaters and Harry beaters as well as any fortification bypassing. The simple portal-beater isn’t enough, in my opinion. You need to reduce the portal’s (and L-Harry’s) fortification to do similar damage to him as in Heroic. My Pynthetica the Zen Archer is designed to excel in both categories thanks to a strong weapon (a Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow that punches Force damage) but also because she can reach 85% fortification bypass thanks to Precision (25%), the bow’s armor-piercing (35%), the Grandmaster of Flowers ED Piercing Clarity (10%) and, by level 30, the Shadowdancer ED Grim Precision (15%). I swap in +5 Holy Arrows, kick on Ten Thousand Stars and go to town. It shouldn’t be a terrible option for most to switch to crafted Armor-Piercing gloves to help. And player abilities that also reduce fortification as a group (the Monk’s Jade Strike, or the Deepwood Stalker’s Mark of the Hunter) also help.
  3. Depending on your group, determine your Part 4 strategy. Normally the strategy is simple: Kill Harry, rapidly and in one go. But be ready with a Plan B: Slowing or killing the gnolls before turning your attention to Harry. Here, Paracleta’s superior Legendary-level paralysis helped a few times when Harry didn’t go down on the first try. She paralyzed two gnolls, leaving only six to destroy and buying time for the party. The trick here is that you MUST paralyze or otherwise freeze the gnolls before they emit their healing beam, as they materialize in the arena. That beam does not stop once started unless the gnoll is dead or the beam hasn’t started to begin with. Flesh-to-Stone, Otto’s Dancing or other effects could work if you get the save and if you’re very fast. If you have paralyzers in your party (and not Heroic level paralysis: You’re going to need to have a DC of 60+ to stand a chance), this can make the difference.
  4. Remind the party to go for maximum everything on the first attempt. Use boosts, the right weapon, throw spells carelessly. Definitely hit him with anything that lowers fortification for yourself or the party. Hold nothing back. It’s got to be “one and done” or the gnolls await you.

Got any other tips to share from your raid experience? Just drop them in the comments.

The Efficient Gamer

Ryn4Being an older gamer (“When I was your age, we played with 8-bits…and we LIKED IT!) I’m not as keen as jumping on the bandwagon of some other new game. I have been tempted to try out WoW just to see what the fuss was about.

My new job (yay!) consists of three or four 12-hour work days. The advantage of that is a LOT of days off to decompress, sleep and catch up on work.

This new routine has reduced my DDO time a bit, because, as my guild’s prime rule says, “real life comes first.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not playing at least two to three hours per week. Still doing the same things, just a bit slower.

Pynthetica is nearing 29 once more as a Zen Archer. I’m looking into improving this build once more, as I might have noted, by checking out other races and classes. My last task from a gear standpoint is (1) craft up level 30-ish items that are optimally placed (WIS, DEX) so to allow use of named items, replacing some loot-gen items that aren’t in good spots; (2) Complete a Legendary Shroud and craft up ingredients to make my Legendary Green Steel Mineral Longbow with “You Cannot Evade Me”: an augment that spikes Insightful DEX by 1d8+2 for 20 seconds and causes 1d8+2 Dexterity damage. Apropos for the ever-evading Zen Archer, do you think?

Paracleta, my very successful Zen Bowmaster, finally has her Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow. Being a first-lifer, I’ll possibly eTR her first and burn Shiradi karma for a Doubleshot 3% bonus to bring her ultimate standing Doubleshot to 74% with gear but before any use of Ten Thousand Stars or Manyshot, which sends her Doubleshot to as high as 241%. I should begin work on her Legendary Green Steel Longbow, too. Once back at level 30, it’ll be back to a regular Heroic True Reincarnation to play around with some things. Paracleta was built as a counter-attack to comments about the Zen Archer. As serendipity would have it, she found a very strong niche. This character will have a long and very dangerous life.

I’d love to get more time in on Ryncletica, my third build, the Poison Master. She’s incredibly dangerous with her DPS and poison damage but could use some offensive adjustments over several areas. The great thing about her is that she’s effective at any level because of her build design. Time to play with other races, although this may reduce a little poison damage and require feats I get for free as a Drow. She’s also lacking powerful Thunder-Forged weapons, but her innate speed and damage is already good. Defense is the central need for the Poison Master.

Lynncletica has proven herself as a very versatile tank over many raids. There’s little more she can be, so I may never TR her again, reserving her as a contingency tank for raids that lack one. We’ll see. Meanwhile, new Dragonborn Shintao Scythetica may be filling in as I test this race with Shintao training.

Been thinking of how to improve Szyncletica, my old original Shuricannon. I should look at Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 notes and integrate them into her next life. Meanwhile she’s working on a Thunder-Forged shuriken since Pyn, Paracleta and Lynn are done with their many “Deathwyrm” raid rotations. Like Pyn, Szyn is desperately in need for optimizing her gear, so she’s aiding that being the central contributor of loot-gen gear to be crunched into Cannith essences for my crafter to use and grow.

With the Update 33 changes, I’d also want to revisit some older ideas. One that fell by the wayside with the enhancement tree introduction was the “Avatar” build that leverages the strengths of each and every Monk stance. Now that the Monk stances are themselves augmented yet again and with improvements (and more personal experience with) Epic Destinies, I might be able to take one of my characters through such a development.

And then there’s the recent changes that have made stealth (and, in the case of Rogues, assassination) that make this ability much more hazardous to use. I still have my solo-stealth master, Kiricletica, to study how to augment stealth skills against a dungeon that, on sensing you, truly alerts whole squads at you. Can a ninja still use their disappearance and stealth skills to escape reliably?

Thanks for still coming by to read, although I cannot post as often as I’d like.