A Monk with Magic

archer

I have not been a fan of mixing up cross-class features experimentally on my Monks until recently when I just decided I need to let my virtual hair down and see if some skills could be used to benefit my characters.

I’ve not created a spellcaster character yet. And I wasn’t generally a fan of mixing features up between classes because I wanted to maximize my learning and experience on everything that the Monk could innately do.

But I also had a clear bias: Mages, specifically the evil ones, were the enemy. The Monk is a melee fighter that’s also a potent anti-mage with high saves, spell resistance and mobility. Perhaps I was taking a page mentally from Diablo II’s Assassin, a player class of that beloved game that was also very Monk-like with charging moves and effects that emulated magic to fight evil mages.

Over the years of play, this bias gave way to appreciate the benefits of using wands or scrolls and found the flexibility extremely handy. Kiricletica, my super-soloing ninja, is Half-Elf and uses the Cleric dilettante to give her high-level Cleric casting levels to use the important divine scrolls such as Heal. My halfling Rogue Assassin, Sukitetica, is very UMD-happy as many Rogues tend to be, armed with an arsenal of scrolls and wands that have saved a few parties in arena fights where soulstones are all over the place and party recovery is compromised because most people are too visible. Being sneaky is your ally and a special power.

So, with my ignorance and prejudice of magic purged from working with Suki, I decided to take the plunge on a pure Monk.

With completing my first eTR on Pynthetica, transforming her into a master untouchable sniper into a bow-wielding sneak-attack machine, I decided to throw some caution into the wind and try out the one skill I discouraged in my Monk guide for fear of gimping a class with few skill points available to it at the start: Use Magic Device.

The first requirement I learned in experimenting with cross-class skill leveling begins at level 1 (or in my case, level 20): Add a couple of ability points to INT and use the largest INT tome you can afford. Ta-da! I just gained 2 or 3 extra skill points per level over the base 4 skill points for a typical Monk. While this wasn’t required, it was essential for how I wanted to play Pyn as I tested the Shadowbow Ninja. She still needed high Hide and Move Silently numbers. Spot was critical. Concentration can never be ignored. There went the 4 granted points right there. The additional points allowed me to pump up UMD to its maximum cross-class limit of 11.5 points without compromising anything else.

Next, use tomes and items to raise CHA, the ability score that boosts UMD. So as I level I’ll be able to wear CHA and Insightful CHA items to add substantial points. Add in Yugoloth favor potions and DDO Store elixirs and I can boost my UMD easily to near 30 points alone. I’m taken advantage of my updated Cannith Crafting powers to make a CHA +12 cloak.

Then finally, equip any items that add UMD bonuses. There’s the Tome of Skill you can buy, and items with Competence, Exceptional and Enhancement bonuses. Only one item per category counts, of course. An Epic Treasure Hunter’s Spyglass, a Big Top, and a few other baubles move the UMD number up to the high 20s to low 30s.

Finally, with these items equipped, kick on Heroism/Great Heroism for an additional bonus to all skills. If Pyn were a light Monks, she could also use the Walk of the Sun finishing buff for another +2 untyped buff to skills.

At level 26, Pyn can now use Restoration and Heroism without fail. I really, really love getting Restoration and Heroism because I can remove negative levels from myself and party as well as buff my hirelings. Raising dead party members while in stealth is a critical party-saving measure because using scrolls doesn’t break stealth in most cases I’ve experienced.

Kicking in a few more tricks, I got 39 UMD, enough to handle Teleport, Greater Heroism, Heal, and Raise Dead. Teacher Jammond recommended work to use Tenser’s Transformation scrolls for +4 Alchemical boosts to STR, DEX and CON, and it looks like I can do that now.

Some scrolls just won’t work. Knock, for instance. I can cast them but the effect requires caster levels I’ll never have. I still have a lot to learn.

To catch you up on Pynthetica’s work on testing and perfecting the Shadowbow Ninja: It goes very well. In addition to UMD benefits, I’ve learned that the best hireling to take with her is a Rogue. That might sound a bit squishy but consider this point. Pyn generates nearly the same sneak attack damage per arrow as the piercing and other damage coming from the bow, and as a Ninja Spy has her own innate SA bonuses. A Rogue specializes in sneak attack, of course.

If the two of us are attacking, an enemy that is susceptible to sneak attack has no quarter, no way to avoid it. If the enemy changes aggro to me, the hireling’s SA is devastating. If the aggro returns to the hireling, I blow them away from Ranged Power bonuses, my Pinion’s Planar Focus: Subterfuge bonuses, the Ninja Spy SA bonuses, the Shadowdancer’s SA bonuses, effects from a Seal of House Avithoul, Deception bonuses…you get the idea. Anything that stands between two SA-happy fighters won’t last long enough to hurt either of us severely before the enemy falls. The takedown speed is amazing. I use a little Rejuvenation Cocoon to refresh our HP as needed and keep on going.

In a live party, Pyn’s SA can sometimes be too good and she’ll pull aggro. It’s better for her to be in parties where there is a good player with Intimidate or strong Threat to keep Pyn from having to stick and move.

I only wish I could have an epic Rogue with Sneak ability. I still have to toss the hireling into the fray and have her build a little aggro before I start shooting. That’s risky ’cause Rogues aren’t tanks.

I think a video is warranted on this, so I’ll try to post one in the near future.

 

The Shadowbow Ninja

The recent changes to the Monk enhancement trees enhanced the already-great Ninja Spy tree. Of note:

  • Advanced Ninja Training: Any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield while Centered gains bonuses.
  • Diversion: For 50 ki, you create a hate-magnet training dummy (Cooldown: 3 minutes)
  • Ninja Master: +2 DEX and +2 WIS, Vorpal gained on any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield, +1 Competence bonus to critical hit multiplier.

I saw one immediate benefit to my Zen Archer and Bowmaster: I could save some AP by removing Aerenal Grace from the Elf tree since Advanced Ninja Training provided DEX-to-Damage for longbows. That’s done.

Then I kept looking at the new Ninja tree as a whole. Next to the Rogue and its trees, it is the strongest class for Sneak Attack damage (The Deepwood Stalker has better general ranged Sneak Attack but you have to power it first). I’ve leveraged this with the Zen Archer, adding a bit of Sneak Attack damage that procs when the many Deception effects and items she carries Bluffs the enemy and adds in that damage.

But the Sneak Attack bonuses were a bonus, not the focus of the Zen Archer.

So what would happen if you could maximize the power of Sneak Attack from a ranged perspective while also providing better Ranged Power to magnify all that, all while not compromising the basic miss-chance defenses of the ninja?

So I started drawing out a new build. I call it the Shadowbow Ninja.

Pynthetica-Shadowbow.jpgAll-Monk, all-ninja, a little Harper, and Elf. Unlike the other Zen bow-wielders, the Shadowbow uses the full Ninja Spy tree, gaining the full Sneak Attack bonuses as well as all the core enhancements. In particular, the last core, Ninja Master, adds more DEX and WIS, Vorpal on any equipped bow (and other weapons) and bonus to the crit multiplier.

The Shadowbow is a sniper, as does the Zen Archer, but it isn’t as dependent on the bow. With a pair of shortswords, it can do the standard deadly ninja stuff: Finishing moves to debilitate and eliminate targets, and Ninja Poison in melee fighting.

In this respect, the Shadowbow shares more traits with the traditional Ranger, alternating between ranged and melee attack. But the Shadowbow Ninja is all-Monk, gaining the benefits of stronger defenses than many Rangers, particularly the miss-chance effects and high Reflex saves, perhaps higher than the Zen Archer itself.

Like the Zen Archer, the Shadowbow adds in additional Ranged Power points through a few points in Harper Agent. She also takes advantage of a new ninja enhancement: Action Boost: Melee/Ranged Power, to get a +20 boost no matter the attack style.

The new Deadly Striker tier 5 adds a +1 Competence bonus to the bow’s critical threat range.

The Shadowbow sacrifices the improved defenses of the Zen Archer for that extra damage, so Pyn says goodbye to Deflect Arrows and her Elven Shadow Dragonmark for gaining Displacement. But Paracleta is similar limited so thankfully the loss of these two defenses can be worked around.

The Shadowbow is very stealthy, as are most ninjas. Because of the bonuses from Ninja Spy, she can also wield shurikens quite well, although not with as much prowess as the Poison Master (a Drow that gains natural proficiency bonuses) while similar to the Shuricannon, at least with Vorpal thrown weapons.

In any attack where the enemy is bluffed, aggroed or helpless, the Shadowbow takes full advantage. With vorpal, Sneak Attack and No Mercy  in play, there’s 30% more damage to helpless–and ninjas can make enemies helpless in three separate ways by melee. In Heroic play, effects such as Freezing Ice can make enemies helpless through ranged attacks, but in Epic, the gloves are off with Shiradi Champion’s Nerve Venom freezing enemies, as well as using a Twist of Fate to stack more helpless damage from Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness, which stacks with No Mercy. The Vorpal will help a lot against weaker trash.

It should be noted that Sneak Attack has a range limit. Deepwood Stalkers can extend their range, but all others are stuck with a maximum 49-foot distance for applying Sneak Attack with ranged or thrown weapons. This makes the Shadowbow a closer-range attacker for best damage. Pyn still uses a lot of Deception items to cause Bluff effects to slow the enemy down, even if Sneak Attacks cannot occur.

One feat I’ve been dying to add to the Zen bow-wielders with little success was Shot on the Run, recently updated to add +3 Ranged Power in addition to cancelling out any penalties to attack rolls while moving. The Shadowbow can be stationary and build up its Archer’s Focus bonuses to Ranged Power, or haul ass across the battlefield with a barrage of arrows like the Zen Bowmaster but have more superiority in a running attack with a bit more Ranged Power. If this feat doesn’t seem that effective, I can trade it out and reapply AP in the Elf tree for her Shadow Dragonmark and gain Displacement again.

If the going gets rough, the Shadowbow owns the full ninja utility belt: Flash Bang to blind and daze a group, or Diversion to throw a hate-magnet on the field while gaining Invisibility for a few seconds. The Update 33 change only requires 50 ki for this with a cooldown of 3 minutes, so it’s no longer tied to your 2 Meditation turns. That lends the ability be used more often as a tactical tool, such as luring a large mob from your path forward or aiding your rescue attempts in a pitched battle where most or all of your party is dead and you must grab soulstones.

In Epic play, Shadowdancer is a wonderful complement to the build. She’s even adopted a new hooded dark archer look, thanks to glamered clothing derived on the Night Revels gear. With that stuff on, he’s certainly more haunting with Shadow Form (see the image above).

Other melee destinies that worked with the Zen Archer should be useful as well. I love using all the Shadowdancer abilities, especially Executioner’s Shot and causing chaos in enemy packs with Shadow Manipulation. Very fun when dominating a Shadar-kai into chain-whipping the mobs for you while you sneak by to your real targets.

I was eager to try out this build, which I’ve mapped out successfully using Character Builder Lite. I decided to send Pynthetica, the veteran Zen Archer, down this route, and she’s become my first Epic Reincarnation, working her way back up from level 20. I chose the Primal karma to take the Epic Past Life feat Doubleshot for 3% more.

She’s now fully geared as I can make her with a completed Thunder-Forged Longbow with Mortal Fear (which I can’t use until level 28), heroic and Legendary Green Steel Longbows, and many other early bound-to-character bows, so she won’t be lacking for weaponry as she grows, although early levels leave me using my Unwavering Ardency much of the time. Would be great to get Blazing Embers with the upgrade with a Seal of the Black Abbot, which means some time in the rather-boring Orchard of the Macabre. But blinded is helpless and that would help.

Pyn did craft a new rare item: An Epic Bow of the Silver Flame, which works well with its blunt damage against skeletal and mummy undead (with a level 20 Fire gem) when I’m not using my triple-positive Greater Disrupting Heroic Green Steel bow.

I’ve also done something I’ve not done before on a Monk before: A greater effort to experiment with Use Magic Device on this build to add a few extra tricks. I added a little more INT to get the needed skill points without compromising her stealth or Spot skills and adding in CHA and UMD/Insightful UMD items with Heroism potions to raise the UMD DC as best I can.

At level 21 I can use scrolls like Knock and Shield (but although I meet the chance to use Knock, some things, like the locked chest in Spies in the House, just don’t open with my Knock and I don’t know why). I will need higher levels to equip items to raise my skill to use Raise Dead. I want Pyn to be able to perform rescues–gods know there have been some raids where party wipes have been rather tough to recover without a good rescuer amidst alert, temporarily victorious enemies.

Guess that also means I should work on fishing for the popular but oh-so-rare Cursed Blade of Jack Jibbers.

I need to play with her a little bit more before I post the CBL build data. And I still have a lot of rewrites due for the Monk guide, among other real-life challenges.

Changes in Destiny

portrait-lynncletica1“Does not work with handwraps” is a common phrase seen in several of the melee-based Epic Destinies.

But, with the changes to handwraps as an Exotic weapon, Teacher Mernom and myself immediately wondered if that restriction has been lifted. I decided to find out with Lynncletica, my Shintao Monk.

Some general changes to the Jade strike-related attacks are amazing to use. I’ve adapted them for use quickly as I farm in the Night Revels.

While the Strike Tainted Creatures attack does not proc very often, the second-highest attack, Jade Strike, is highly effective against anything, including red-named enemies, in reducing their fortification enough to improve damage. If the enemy’s Will save isn’t good, they’re encased in jade–and this is occurring much more often than before since the Jade strikes have improved DCs. Jade Strike’s fortification reduction and encasement has a short cooldown as well (around 30 seconds), making it my second-favorite attack against non-bosses.

Tomb of Jade seems also more effective, but combined with Jade Strike, my attacks nearly double in damage, going into 400 to 600 per strike, depending on the target’s DR.

Now to summarize how Epic Destinies are helping.

Legendary Dreadnought

I retooled the destiny points to add in Lay Waste and Momentum Swing and also added Pulverizer.

Wearing the Storm’s Harness handwraps, my inventory status showed 17-20 for the critical range. The critical threat multiplier showed X3 on the handwrap weapon data. That suggests that these abilities are applying.

Master’s Blitz certainly works as before and makes for great option in sustained fighting to boost overall damage, especially with effects that now work with the revised handwraps. With the Blitz going, enemies that get struck by Jade Strike are damaged far quickly.

In this and all destinies, the Melee Power boosts have risen dramatically. Where, in the past, I made hits of around 120 per strike, I now see hits in the 220s (depending on the target’s DR) with critical hits between 1100 to 3000.

Unyielding Sentinel

Not surprisingly to most of you, this is my all-defense destiny I use for tanking in raids or in the toughest quests. It has the highest Melee Power rating found in a few other destinies and many abilities that allow me to adjust my defenses while still delivering some damage.

This destiny doesn’t offer STR boosting as Dreadnought does, but with the handwrap changes, the overall damage has nicely improved.

The Tower of Despair Incredible Potential ring I have (which provided Holy Burst/Good-alignment for unarmed attacks) is behaving as it should, now that handwraps are true weapons: The ring no longer functions unless I am bare-handed with no handwraps or weapons equipped. To my understanding, Purify Weapon only gives Good damage, but not alignment, but I’ll check that. In the interim, I chose another point to CON in that destiny since I could use all the HP I could get.

That ToD rings will no longer work is a bit bittersweet because it gives one more reason why the Tower of Despair raid is rarely attended today. There’s little there to gain for the Epic or high-level Heroic character and now, nothing for the Monk. The rings were an answer for needed DR bypass for the Monk, not long after its introduction, especially since Green Steel handwraps weren’t possible. Time moves on, but a refresh to the raid would be nice.

Fury of the Wild

The berserker destiny should be a great one to use for Monks, and I didn’t expect it to disappoint.

While the overall damage is lower per attack with only +3 Melee Power per innate ability, the burst damage isn’t bad, but it can be inconsistent against enemies. That is, if you’re not readied against Blur or other miss-chance effects, your attacks miss and your opportunity is lost.

One significant benefit for the Monk (learned with optimizing WIS for Paracleta) is that I can heavily boost WIS through Primal Scream and Fury Made Placid, which gives me the highest WIS to-date for Lynncletica from any destiny, with all gear and potions (58). This makes the DCs for Stunning and Jade striking much more effective.

Grandmaster of Flowers

The Monk-aligned destiny didn’t gain any new advantages with the change that I can note for Monks themselves. If you have a non-Monk that needs to use the destiny, you’ll now gain Handwrap proficiency to wield them if you care to use them.

For Lynn as a tanker, it’s the least useful destiny of the melee destinies, and it feels weird saying that. The problem is that there are many good abilities, however, adding points to gain these abilities all but sacrifices the options I’ve used in other destinies to boost STR, CON or WIS. I do use Twists of Fate to add in particularly notable abilities from GMoF into more offensive destinies, abilities such as A Dance of Flowers, Piercing Clarity and Standing with Stone.

Shadowdancer

As with GMoF, life as a Shadowdancer using a Shintao Monk also shows little change. This destiny is more inclined to weapon use and augment stealth or Rogue-related features such as Sneak Attacks, threat reduction, and diversionary abilities that passively empower you rather than directly overpowering your enemies. Lynn can sneak but she’s meant to attract the ire of anything around her.

Fatesinger

Surprisingly, this is a decent destiny for a Shintao. You can choose STR throughout and the handful of abilities that can apply to melee fighters work well. First is the second innate ability, Glitter of Fame, that adds +1 to all abilities except CHA. Also, Intoxicating Presence adds a stun-guard. The aggressive Reign adds Lightning damage to attacks, and Echoes of the Ancestors: Martial adds +1 to STR and DCs if you take the Legendary Dreadnought mode.

In the course of writing this I had a small inspiration for a ninja variant. More on that once I test out some things if it pans out.

Thank You, Developers

trophyUpdate 33 Hotfix 1 is arriving as I type this.

The release notes are short, as hotfixes tend to be quick bullet points.

There’s been some important fixes, such as purple and red-named bosses not becoming Champions.

A guildmate had to play the Spinner of Shadows in Epic with a crown on her head–as if she needed any more overpowered abilities!

But less can be more when it comes to patches.

The best news:

  • Handwraps no longer take durability damage.

Obviously I haven’t tested this just yet. But it’s good news. Not because we Monks want special treatment, but because the change of handwraps to non-weapons (with all the downsides that weapons can have against oozes and rust monsters) made the class potentially more expensive to use in early levels. It was also a sudden change that most of us were hardly ready to compensate for, through crafting or other means.

I would’ve also been happy to have Everbright wraps given to new Monks in Korthos as well as Heroic and Epic named Everbright wraps we could find, rather than mucking with sensitive code. But the devs decided to find a global change, and it’s no less appreciated.

It also means that parties once more have a member that can handle oozes without splitting them (in general), damaging their weapons or wasting spell points. Every class has at least one benefit to a party, and Monks benefitted from ooze-bashing, too, especially in lower levels where ki generation is harder.

Now new Monks won’t be as broke as they might have been. Thanks for the quick fix, devs.

Another fix was something I had noticed in gameplay sometimes:

  • Monk Damage Reduction on handwraps will no longer disappear after zoning or resting.

I would notice that, when wearing my Storm’s Harness handwraps, the electric damage wouldn’t be activating. After swapping to another pair of wraps and back, the damage would reappear. Now, I don’t recall resting (I rarely use shrines except for resetting spell points, clickies, or death penalties) when this problem happened.

In related news, I have heard rumors that the Tower of Despair “Incredible Potential” rings might be problematic with the handwrap change. I’ve not yet tested this and will report when I can, but if anyone has a Holy Bursted ring and can verify if the ring still works with the new handwrap format, just shout out.

 

 

Mystical Return

I’ve been pretty gloomy-gus about some of the changes to the Monk enhancements lately. I don’t want people to misinterpret my criticisms as a “DOO00M!!!1” or anti-Turbine skeed, however.

You play a game for its positive effect on you. It may be of little surprise that I didn’t want to play all that much on that day when the handwraps were made into weapons.

The problem is still serious enough to keep discussing what to do about it, short- or long-term. So, several monastics in my dojo prayed and contemplated.

Creeping Death of Your Handwraps

I was in a party last night on Legendary Elite in “Creeping Death.” Yeah, the quest with lots and lots and lots of oozes. I joined one Shintao Monk in the fight. He had virtually destroyed over 4 sets of handwraps before the quest was over. Because these oozes were around CR60-ish, removing his wraps and effecting any damage worth a damn wasn’t an option.

Since the update, I have been grinding every bit of loot I could to make Cannith Essences to work on boosting my crafting levels. Today, at level 233, with a 35% crafting booster, I reached a 75% chance to craft what I needed: an Everbright shard. I could only make minimum level 25 shards safely, but this balances out the weapon for earlier use.

I love the new crafting system, by the way. It’s inherently more expensive than its predecessor, but the process saves a lot of calculations and makes the process much more understandable. Since items are bound to account, you don’t have that nagging worry of forgetting something that could craft items for a character that won’t use that item.The variations, damage, or effects you have available are also striking.

Speaking of striking, here is the result I made for Lynncletica.

everbrightwraps

However, I have spent dozens of hours in the crafting hall to reach a level where I could make Everbright shards. New Monks won’t be so fortunate.

GamerGeoff acknowledged that the change is more true to lore as well as game mechanics. He suggested that Monks do what other classes do against oozes: Wield a Muckbane.

I vetoed the thought in a reply, but, just in case, I checked. The Ninja Spy’s update included making any weapon you could wield as gaining DEX-to-Damage. So I borrowed my only Muckbane from my Rogue for Ryncletica the Poison Master to hold as a test.

The test failed. While Monks have weapon proficiency in clubs, the Muckbane uncenters her. We lose all our monastic powers.

So the secondary options are (1) fight completely unarmed, removing handwraps or (2) use another weapon, and carry more handwraps or other weapons as they break to the oozes and rust monsters.

I neglected to say what Monk I brought into the “Creeping Death” run.

My Henshin Mystic, Quintessica, has returned to active status.

Some Light in the Shadow

Quintessica was first built back during the older enhancement format, before the trees. She was designed to wield all four elemental stances. During that time, it was very costly to master all the stances, but I was in an “Avatar: The Last Airbender” mood, and she was fun to play.

With the new enhancement trees, everyone got the complete stances. Quintessica became one of the new Henshin Mystics and collected a boatload of quarterstaves.

While initially interesting to play, the lack of defense and speed slowed and soon stopped my enjoyment of Quintessica as she reached epic play. She’s been sitting at level 23 for over two years before she came out of retirement last night.

In the ooze-filled dungeon of “Creeping Death.” A level 23 character in a level 33 quest.

Wielding a Dreamspitter.

Dreamspitter.jpg

It’s not the most optimal Epic quarterstaff that’s immune to rust or ooze damage (that’s her sister staff from “The Fall of Truth,” the Dreampiercer). But it did the job.

More interesting was how Quintessica functioned in fighting. With a weaker weapon I didn’t expect much. I didn’t expect her to survive at all, really, because she hasn’t Rejuvenation Cocoon available yet, so ki and potion healing was all that she had as things tried to kill her

But after beating up a bit of ooze rather decently, I looked at Quinn’s character sheet.

Her base melee power was 102.

That’s an insane level of power boost for level 23.

I also took Cleave, Great Cleave and Whirlwind Attack. She sits inside her Cauldron of Flame circle and spams each one almost continually.

And after ensuring my party had Death Ward, I kept using Every Light Casts a Shadow to cause additional negative levels on top of any that the Dreamspitter (the original “woo-woo stick”) added.

Quintessica has the same problem as other Monks in terms of serious weapon damage against oozes in her next life’s early days until she can wield that crystal staff. I did scrounge up an old level 8 Everbright staff I saved for her to use a little later.

Quinn is woefully under-geared and under-trained. So, from what I’ve seen last night, I think she needs a bit of time out to see what she can really do with the new tree updates, as well as level and gear up a bit. Based on several great reports from Teacher Vladrich on the Mystic, I’m feeling a little encouraged about things.

 

 

Acquiescence for the Pugilists

oldglovesI’ve joked with friends, as I drink four Yugoloth Favor Potions with my Shintao Monk every fifteen minutes, that I fight simply to support my expensive drinking habit.

That’s not far from the truth. Getting sufficient favor to gain Yugoloth favor requires you to run most of the Shavarath-Devil quests on Elite. Time is expensive in an MMO. Each Yugoloth potion itself is about 1,100 platinum. I buy four types–STR, DEX, CON, WIS–often 50 each. That’s roughly 100,000 platinum.

I can go through them rapidly. They’re a beneficial expenditure when farming on Legendary Hard quests when CR 40 and higher enemies spawn.

Being a Monk isn’t an inexpensive venture. First, you have to buy the class. It cannot be earned by favor. When I learned of DDO, without playing one second in the game, I bought the class, becoming a Premium player.You also can gain the class as a VIP.

As a Monk, you’re always limited at the start in what items you can use. No armor except cloth. No weapons save 3 types unless your enhancements and feat allow exception. Heavier damage incurred without a lot of practice in the style of fighting. Lesser damage and hit points than any other melee. Lesser protections at the start until you build up Improved Evasion, miss-chance and saves. And you have to leverage this peculiar energy known as ki, and timing specific elemental attacks to buff or damage, all in a proper sequence, or you fail the technique, be you level 1 or 30.

By level 9 you’re more able. By level 12 most Monks come into their own and do very well at Elite ventures if they remember their strengths. That is, a good Monk doesn’t leap into the fray if they can help it or unless they do so by strategy (a tanking Monk does, if need be).

The early DDO quests are stacked against the Monk because much of it existed before the class did. So, most early quests don’t give item rewards useful at all to the Monk. A few quests were adjusted to help there, but they are far and few, or require you to purchase a module (Catacombs and Sentinels of Stormreach come immediately to mind).

The one singular benefit of being a Monk, if you persevered in your training, is its self-sufficiency. You could heal yourself or use techniques that minimized or avoided fighting altogether that few other classes could match. Your special attacks were designed to thwart the most dangerous enemies early on in an adventurer’s life–the undead.

Changes are natural in an MMO. Most are to the benefit of the player, even if it takes a while for us to appreciate them.

The latest update for the Monk class, specifically its enhancement trees, is most useful for the Ninja Spy but leave the Henshin Mystic in a questionably useful state.

One change, however, has compelled me to avoid the use of any unarmed Monk, except in some raids, for the time being. That’s the change of handwraps as extensions of the unarmed Monk into a weapon.

While the quality of the change seems to improve the general damage of the Monk, the change will also make gameplay for early Monks prohibitively expensive, and difficult for some Monks, even epic ones, to compensate. Here’s why.

  1. Early Monks will be often fighting oozes. Before Update 33, handwraps did not suffer greatly from attacking these jelly creatures while other melee fighters had to back off a little to let casters or ranged members in party to eliminate them. Killing oozes also gave the young Monk some opportunity to build up needed ki reserves that dissipate early in their play with lower WIS and Concentration scores. Handwraps now are weapons, and, per the developers, are working as intended, suffering damage from attacking oozes and rust monsters. This is very serious for two reasons. (1) Unarmed fighting is the de facto form of the Monk. Finding handwraps with the Everbright property is nearly impossible with the current loot-generation: The prefix appears completely extinct. That means a young Monk must spend a lot of platinum buying handwraps so they can get through a single quest filled with oozes. (Waterworks has quite a lot of these, for example). Finding inexpensive Everbright handwraps or quarterstaves will be unlikely, especially since now every Monk will need one and the trading economy will naturally make these more expensive. Else, the Monk must nerf their own damage by removing their wraps and fighting bare-handed. In effect, the change forces you to avoid using your one and only weapon as a Monk. (2) Gaining Everbright with the (welcome) update to Cannith Crafting requires you to have moderate skill (250) to make your own bound ones. If you are lucky to know a friend who can create unbound shards for your Everbright weapon,  at 400 skill, you can also gain the right handwraps.
  2. For new Monks, both conditions make fighting more difficult and expensive than it need be. And this issue affect high-end adventurers. Your named handwraps will also suffer damage, and that means you must craft very expensive handwraps not only to for them to survive but also deal sufficient damage. Rust monsters and oozes do appear in flagging quests for Epic and Legendary raids, and powerful, deadly rust monsters do appear in one Legendary raid. That leaves Epic players to fight with much weaker weaponry, or none at all to preserve their handwraps during a long raid, dealing less damage to the enemy and likely jeopardizing themselves and party.

So, for now, it’s hard for me to recommend anyone to choose the class unless you are going for some non-unarmed variant. Even then, bows and shuriken cannot break down some walls and doors to progress, so every Monk carries handwraps or kamas, at the least, to knock these down.

In reply to a thread I posted on this, developer Steelstar noted that the durability of handwraps were significantly boosted to help this working-as-intended design. However, in tests I’ve done, difficult oozes will destroy most of the durability even in a brief fight. And there’s always someone in party that has only slashing weapons that make more oozes as they break apart, leaving everybody with more to fight.

Steelstar also noted that they’ll be looking into the situation on when or if they can improve this matter.

I’m normally patient and don’t inherently blame the devs–they always have a difficult job in pleasing the player and encouraging them to play and, in turn, spend their money and time to do so.

But the Monk class is a different breed. If the Monk were a class that could be earned by favor, the challenge of it becoming more expensive and time-consuming to equip and fight oozes would be offset a little. But players already spend real money to get the class. To play now in certain quests will damage equipment so badly, with far fewer options than other classes with the same issues, that I can’t really recommend buying the class until Everbright handwraps for young Monks are provided at low cost and early on, and in Free-to-Play content, just so they can get through the early levels.

Intermediate Heroic and Epic level Monks also shouldn’t require Cannith Crafting levels to get at least one named pair of handwraps with Everbright properties just to get rid of the monsters. The items needn’t be particularly powerful at all–just durable. Finishing moves and technique can go a long way from there.

We Monks don’t want to spend our time right now improving our crafting levels just to play, much less avoiding spending lots of platinum in repair costs. Besides, how could a Monk improve his crafting levels if questing requires getting loot to break down, and to get to that, you might fight monsters that dramatically destroy your equipment?

For now, my unarmed Monks are retired to rest in the dojo, relieved of most work until my crafting level improves to make Everbright handwraps for them and others I encounter.

Update 33: The Promised Land

I did get Lammania up earlier in the week to explore the changes for the Monk class with Update 33. I played around with copies of my Zen Archer, Poison Master and Shintao. Things looked promising for the very brief time I was able to play there.

Now that the official release notes are up as the game is updating today, I realized I missed some little bits of information from my last post that should make most Monks in general rather happy. Listed from awesome to meh:

  • In all three trees, Elemental Ki strikes have been changed. Eagle Claw Attack now applies four stacks, and stacks to 15. Knock on the Sky reduces enemy physical damage by 4% per stack. Unbalancing Strike is now +3[w].

I use Unbalancing Strike (counted as a Water move) often with the Poison Master to quickly charge up Freezing the Lifeblood paralyzing move. Doesn’t look like Fists of Iron has changed from its +3[W] damage, +1 critical threat range, and +1 Critical Damage Multiplier.

  • The Fire finisher Breath of the Fire Dragon now scales with 2x Melee Power.

This change will certainly help in damage against Plant and ice-based enemies.

  • Each Ninjutsu ability in Ninja Spy now also grants +1 to hit and damage with weapons other than a quarterstaff or handwraps when centered.

A welcome change for my Poison Master and for the stealth-master Kiricletica. Kiri’s still around but my Zen craze has been keeping my attention. I’ll update you on her progress with these new changes and perhaps put Kiri through more solo stealth work with newer content.

  • Iron Skin now works regardless of your chosen stance.
  • Iron Skin’s third rank now grants +20 PRR when centered.

Last night I was playing with Lynncletica’s PRR just before another Deathwyrm. She generally sat around 139. Then I added in a Legendary Planar Compass, then Twisted in the Grandmaster of Flowers Standing with Stone for 15 additional and Primal Avatar’s Ephemeral Evolution for up to 15 more when attacked. As I completed that change, my Legendary feat Scion of Limbo moved to give me another 30 PRR. And then I added in the Antipode/Planar Conflux 15 PRR bonus.

I had around 177 PRR for a hot minute.The update to Iron Skin will make things more hot.

  • Grandmaster of Flowers now grants handwrap proficiency in its first Core Ability.

Might have mentioned this one, but it’s still great. Gives our non-Monks something to look forward to doing as they level up that destiny.

  • Fury Eternal and Unbridled Fury now explicitly say they work with ranged weapons.

The monkchers are vindicated.

When I used Unbridled Fury one time with Pynthetica in a “Defiler of the Just” run against the end-boss, my reaction to the immense DPS boost was not too different from Egon using his proton thrower for the first time in Ghostbusters: Complete amazement.

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  • Handwraps have gained +10 Hardness and +80 Maximum Durability.

Since handwraps are weapons now, does this mean that they also become damaged from oozes and rust monsters? Let’s hope not. Handwraps should have an inherent Everbright property. We shouldn’t lose, as parties or individual Monks, a way to remove oozes through a melee fighter. Monks can’t equip Muckbane clubs without becoming uncentered, and quarterstaves are nearly worthless in the hands of anyone but a Mystic.

UPDATE: In very early play in Update 33 live, I entered “Creeping Death,” where oozes abound. My wraps are suffering tremendous damage. I’ve reported this as a bug already. This is unacceptable as I haven’t any other “weapons” to use as a Shintao and there are absolutely no “Everbright” handwraps as that would’ve been unnecessary pre-Update 33.

SECOND UPDATE: Cordovan’s response in a thread I opened reporting this states this change is working as intended. New players are going to get screwed for repair costs as oozes are plentiful in early content. Everbright handwraps haven’t dropped for ages with various loot prefix/suffix changes. And you’ll need at least 250 bound/400 unbound skill to craft Everbright handwraps. I normally roll with the punches (no pun intended) with game changes that are challenging, but this one makes so little sense I will not be surprised that fewer Monks appear.

  • Stunning Fist now specifically requires Handwraps to use.

Is this “problem” still going on? If you aren’t a Monk, you should be using Stunning Blow or, better, Shield Bash. I’ve seen one friend shield-bash about as fast as I could use Stunning Fist, and it was most impressive.

  • Planar Shards, Outsider Tokens, and Draconic Runes now properly go into bags.

Totally not specific to Monks, but yay, more storage space freed up.

  • Demon Assault no longer respawns enemies after the end chest is opened.

That’s welcome. In that quest, the reavers and renders were almost impossible to manage while you’re trying to loot, assess and trade items from the chest.

  • Six new Deity options are available for Clerics, Paladins, and Favored Souls at their first level. These are analogous to the existing Deity feats and abilities.

Again, not Monk-related. But I’m fond of this change because of my long love of the D&D based Neverwinter Nights games. There, your clerics got a lot of extra bonuses with their deity alignments. Further, if you’re going to have clerics and other divine fighters in the game, leaving out these elements seemed to make gameplay rather odd in terms of roleplay, especially since many NPCs had deity alignments.

  • Festivult Abishai Cookies work as a set again.

That explains my abortive attempt to use the five cookies with Paracleta for a stacking +4 to WIS while running a Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine. I’ll be running lots of stuff to get more of these cookies in the future.

  • Critical Multiplier bonuses now work on Thrown weapons.

That bug keeps being fixed and broken over several updates. My old Shuricannon relies on better modifiers for higher damage, so this is welcome. However, conversations on the forums suggest this isn’t the complete fix.

  • Monk’s Moment of Clarity finishing move feat tooltip now properly states that it is a stacking bonus, rather than an Insight bonus.

Hardly relevant since you’d have to be a Mystic (where the only Void attack exists to activate the finisher) to use it. I mentioned this last time because there’s no reason I know not to have a simple Void Strike feat added back into the game for non-Mystics to use this finisher and its dark version once more.

I will try to forget what I’ve known about the Mystic and give it another try soon. I’ve learned more on defense options and the game has evolved significantly over several updates to provide options I hadn’t had available when the first Mystics arrived.

 

 

Keeping Shadow at Bay

Hours after the last post on preparing for Lynncletica’s first epic raid tanking, I remembered at the last minute that a raid was scheduled that same day.

I made the decision to move the Little Mountain to hold back the Sibilant Shade, Aurgoloroasa, in “Temple of the Deathwyrm.”

The most-excellent raid group, formed from several different guilds, met for their twice-weekly run into Thunderholme. To survive trying to tank the dragon, I needed one thing: Level 27. With sufficient work on my destinies that wouldn’t jeopardize future XP too much, I leveled up, added Epic Damage Reduction for 10 PRR more, and pulled the level 27 Guardian’s Cloak from my reincarnation cache for desperately-needed DR against slash and pierce damage.

In Unyielding Sentinel destiny, I checked my gear and looked at my twists. With 3 fate points available, I upgraded the second slot and added Fury of the Wild’s Damage Reduction for 6 PRR more.

I hoped to wear the Epic Mentau’s Goggles for Ghostly through the raid. However. the dragon’s occasionally deadly breath attack debuffs Death Ward, leaving you vulnerable to excessive negative energy damage without Deathblock. Unable to upgrade a slot in time for the raid for an inexpensive yellow augment, it was back to wearing some Green Steel goggles I’ve trusted for this.

The raid was smooth and uneventful and fast as we made our way to the top, fortunately avoiding the taxing Jump and Red Light/Green Light intermediate rooms for the Trap and Tower Combat rooms.

Then the moment of truth came. I checked both my Intimidate and Concentration skills. Ki Shout would be my more dominant intimidate but I added the Intimidate button to my toolbar just in case. I learned later, not surprisingly, that they share cooldowns like Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot.

With a quick check of my defense/healing gear, off I went.

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My plan was simple and similar to any tanks before me: Intimidate by either skill and keep striking the dragon. As a Monk, I wanted to build ki for Healing Ki when needed, use Rejuvenation Cocoon if Healing Ki becomes interrupted. In short, I’m continually healing as I fight, so as not to require a dedicated healer.

Things have gotten wild in other DW runs, especially if the tank loses control or the crowd controlling party that manages the Kuldjarghs and respawns become overwhelmed. I needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, and Lynn’s training and gear did not disappoint. Thankfully, Aurgoloroasa hasn’t any other special attacks, and as a Shintao Monk, I had a few special protections to help against undead even as powerful as her.

I would like to see if the Shock and Awe effect that dragons throw out can be offset by the Monk’s anti-stun finisher, Grasp the Earth Dragon. I hadn’t time to throw a buff for it at the time. (A later run showed that the buff is ineffective.) Shock and Awe slowed me most of time, naturally, since this is a big freakin’ angry undead shadow dragon.

One thing I learned quickly to do once the dragon started knocking me down (Stand Against the Tide’s secondary ability that prevents knockdown, Steadfast, doesn’t work against all knockdown types) was first to move to Unbreakable stance for PRR and then do something Monks don’t think of doing often: Block.

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Even without a shield, a simple block seemed to prohibit knockdown (although the wiki does not note this), wards off some attack types and, thus reduce the damage I received. Once I had my HP restored, I turtled up for a bit, struck to gain back some ki, and blocked again.

Once or twice, the dragon’s successive attacks knocked me down and left me with just one-quarter health. The feat Guardian Angel kicked on for emergency PRR but I hadn’t time to look at that, of course. A single quick Cocoon restored my HP bar, thanks to 220 healing amplification. The healing curse also pulled 4 or 8 HP per strike.

The secondary worry was losing aggro. This was an accomplished raid team that knew when to attack the dragon to lower her HP in order for her to spawn Shadows to kill for portals used to enter the shadow side for phylactery destruction. But too much damage by the group and I could lose the dragon’s attention. Thankfully my threat level was sufficient. Only once did I need to rein her back in.

The great thing was that I tanked it well, defended well against the damage, healed myself most of the time, and could move her around enough to help complete the raid.

Now, the group decided just for Epic Hard that night, having suffered a brutal Epic Elite completion days before due to game issues.

Tanking was most triumphant.

A few days later we tried Elite “Fire on Thunder Peak.” I was tanking the “fat” dragon quite well. Things, however, went very pear-shaped after the two purple-named magma elementals were killed. Our teams were in poor alignment for more trash and the dragon’s attacks increased (as expected), leaving me more vulnerable. We abandoned our Epic Elite run and returned to curb-stomp things on Hard.

But, in my opinion, no more vulnerable than any other tank. I’ve seen heavily armored guys die easier than I did.  As a Shintao, my general defenses are good, and I have room for a bit more with some item farming and creative use of twists. Lesser Displacement. Another 30 PRR. Healing amp so strong I can heal 600 HP with Healing Ki.

Since then, Lynncletica has reached level 30, choosing Elusive TargetOverwhelming Critical and Dire Charge to complete the feats to 29. For the Legendary feat, I chose something new for me: Scion of Limbo. I’m used to one-minute buffs. The advantage here is that Limbo costs me nothing to use and works passively. I can time tactics as buff messages appear.

Filling in some epic destinies for 4 more fate points for twisting Sense Weakness. Not that Lynn has been hurting for damage. At around 50 STR and using the incredible burst damage of the Storm’s Harness handwraps, Lynn has begun to solo Epic Elites to work on her 5,000 favor. Her stunning work is also very strong there: As high as 80 DC for Dire Charge and a 68-70 DC for Stunning Fist. More than sufficient to stun Champion orange-names most times.

For those DCs, I wear level 30 Severlin’s Leaden Boots, a Legendary Animated Rope for +14 Combat Mastery (Enhancement bonus), some Insightful Combat Mastery +6 gloves, and Legendary Tactics from Legendary Dreadnought as a twist. I wear some Wisdom +14 goggles but haven’t any Insightful WIS items equipped just yet. The Storm’s Harness wraps add a +4 Quality Stunning bonus, too. My WIS is rarely above 40. Dire Charge uses your highest ability score, which is either STR or CON, both often in the 50s.

If I’m going to continue tanking shadow dragons, however, I need the negative energy absorbing powers of the Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance. I should have one, but farming for it shouldn’t be too hard.

Update 33 Testing

The DDO forums are abuzz with player comments and a few replies from the devs on the expected changes.

Given the magnitude of changes, and with a little encouragement from Cordovan, I’ve decided to join in the testing of U33 once it’s live on Lammania.

It’s amazing to me how some much criticism has been generated. I find it amazing because historically, the many functions of the Monk, certainly the most complex of the melee class, don’t seem to be used by many players I’ve seen in my circle. Everyone has a right to comment and aid in the development. I wish I knew more players that seem to actually use the enhancements and feats, attack and defense benefits at the level I’ve tried. Trying and using everything in the class is what my guide and gaming practice is all about.

Not that I’m omniscient to know the hearts and techniques of all players, of course. I’m always concerned how some players miss out on the tactical elements of the class, and think that more attack power or defense is simply the way to go.

But again, I’m oversimplifying other’s motives. I guess I don’t see any serious deficiencies in the class (save the Mystic’s defense and attack speed) that can’t be compensated by strategy.

Since the Book of Syncletica is going to need some significant changes on the update’s release, getting ahead on how the changes work will help update the guide that much sooner.

Can’t wait to begin.

Update 33 Beta: Seen It, Still Working on Believing

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Cordovan was banking on completing Update 33 on Legendary Elite, solo, armed with only a Club of the Holy Flame, when he posted on Twitch TV a preview of the update’s expected changes recently. Teacher Saekee showed another thread with a clearer view of Cordovan’s notes.

They’re all expected live (per Cordovan’s forum update on the matter, not the video) around Wednesday, October 12 on Lammania.

Since I dominantly play the Monk class, I’m sure a few folks want my take on it. I had some early reservations about expected changes. Now that there’s public, official but beta release notes, I can speak up.

The problem is that the changes are rather comprehensive and numerous, so I’ll concentrate on how they affect what builds I have and come back to finer points as they apply.

Changes to my Shintao Monks

Lynncletica and Syncletica will see their handwraps change into a type of Exotic weapon, with 1d6 as their starting damage.

I don’t know if a completely unarmed (that is, not wearing handwraps) Monk still sees damage through their hands in the current way.

Any DR bypassing provided by the enhancements for unarmed Monks will apply through the new handwraps.

It’s not clear to me why this change was made, save for increasing possible damage and to provide the option to make Green Steel handwraps. I find the latter answer a load of malarkey since several quest chains now create handwraps from ingredients, Thunder-Forged handwraps included. Why the Shroud’s building mechanic didn’t follow the same principle has always confused me.

Stances get a few changes. For starters, the +1 critical hit multiplier in the upper Mountain stances move to the Fire Stances. I guess this is logical as Fire Stance increases STR, which is the attack modifier, so greater damage will come from this change. The downside (and a balance I approve) is that higher damage is offset by a reduction in WIS if using Fire Stance. Lynn will still use Mountain Stance as a guardian for its protections but this does invite a new build that punches harder than any other.

Ocean Stance’s Dodge bonuses are enhanced to 3,6.9 and 12%. This change is weird. It’s ridiculously easy to add Dodge to a Monk. I would’ve rather seen increases to all saves in a similar scale.

Wind Stance received no changes to its bonuses to Doublestrike or attack speed or defenses. Syncletica remains a glass cannon.

“Form Ki” moves are mentioned. I presume we’re speaking of the elemental strikes. These attacks are scaled by Melee Power. I’m fond of this as it encourages people to use finishers and elemental attacks, if my presumption is right. Likewise, elemental strikes scale with melee power, and provides me with similar confusion.

And attack-based finishers deliver 1[w] damage. Not bad.

As well, Fists of Light itself delivers 0.5[w], 4d6 Light damage, and overall damage, including Vorpal-calculated strikes, scale with Melee Power. Nice news when bashing skeletons and others more effectively, especially since the Monk’s Bludgeoning damage is resisted by many enemies.

Vorpal Strike now works with handwraps. It wasn’t working before? Thankfully I haven’t bothered to use this feat lately, and there are Vorpal handwraps, anyway.

Some other cool changes: Shining Star, the Otto’s finisher of Earth/Wind/Fire (get it?) will use WIS and not CHA as its modifier. A new build idea just dawned in my head immediately, although this finisher is granted only at level 20. It would’ve been nice if the feat’s minimum level was lowered to 12 or 15. Similarly, the remote stun enhancement Kukan-do will also use WIS and not CHA for it’s DC.

Some great news for Lynn’s healing: Healing Ki now heals 1d4 per Monk level, instead of per 2 levels. 

Lastly, in the “WTF!? You’re Confusing Us!” category is “Moment of Clarity.” The description says that it’s “bonuses now stack (a former Insight bonus).”

What the devs may be forgetting (and have since the initial enhancement change) is there are two Moments of Clarity in-game. The release notes clearly mention the Harper Agent enhancement’s ability to increase tactical and spell DCs by +10 for ten seconds.

The original Moment of Clarity was a granted Monk feat, a finishing move (Light/Void/Light: Bonuses to attack rolls and skill checks to nearby allies). It’s been all but permanently broken ever since the Void Strike feat was removed with the first enhancement pass and placed in a remarkably useless tier 5 enhancement when the Henshin Mystic enhancements arrived years ago. Removing Void Strike also broke the Ninja Spy’s charming finisher, Curse of the Void.

Can we PLEASE get a Lesser Void Strike feat restored to reactivate the Moment of Clarity (and the dark Monk’s Curse of the Void) finishers without having to train a Mystic? Please? It doesn’t have to even cause more than 1 point of Force damage. Just restore that finisher with a simple optional feat, or rip it out of the granted feats. It’s tiresome to see something we cannot use–and, based on the notes, making Mystics will still not be worth it to me to get Void Strike or play them in general (more later).

More Shintao specific changes in their tree begin with +1 to-hit and attack for each trained Elemental Curative. Similarly to changes in the Ninja Spy’s tier 5 Ninjutsu, you no longer need to train all Elemental Curatives to get Rise of the Phoenix, the self-resurrection ability. Switching places with Phoenix is Empty Hand Mastery, which changes from a die damage of 1d6 to 1d8 to a +1 Competence bonus to critical hit modifier and threat range.

The defensive PRR boosting Iron Skin works for any stance. A small win for Wind Stancers like Syncletica and Ocean Stancers like the Zen archers and the Poison Master. Likewise, Violence Begets Violence also works for any stancean additional concession to make the Shintao tree give less favoritism to tanking.

The fourth Shintao core, Touch the Void Dragon, now becomes an untyped stacking bonus to all ability scores, and the final core enhancement, To Seek Perfection, goes from +2 to +4 WIS.

The changes to the Tainted strikes confuse me in terms of role play (the Shintao specialized in damaging any Outsider), but I can live with the adjustments. All abilities that affected Tainted creatures now affect all enemies, including the ability to encase any enemy in jade and debuff anything with Jade Strike, Tomb of Jade and Smite Tainted Creature. The change is like giving Rangers a Favored Enemy range to “everything,” but who am I to judge?

Lastly, Meditation of War’s effects will now become untyped and stack with similar effects.

Changes to the Poison Master, Zen Archer and Bowmaster

The Zen Archer build I put together (as well as her opposite, the Zen Bowmaster) are based in part on elements from the Ninja Spy tree. Of course, the melee Poison Master is wholly ninja.

My largest worry in the rumored enhancements were that the devs would make changes to the one tree that was generally versatile and perfect out of the gate in the first pass. The Zen Archer and the Poison Master are based on some items from teacher Firewall’s original Shuricannon. The Bowmaster has only a “splash” of Ninja Spy for use of its Shadow Veil incorporeality but is primarily a Elven Arcane Archer that really loves a recent enhancement pass update there.

Thankfully, what changes I read for the ninjas seem not only acceptable, but very welcome.

For Ryncletica the sword wielder, the Fists of Darkness’ effects now scale with Melee Power.

There were several incomplete notes about changes to basic finishing moves. Using Cordovan’s notes, I think I can guess what’s to be changed.

The Gathering Storm and Raging Sea finishers has had their WIS DC modifiers raised from 10 + WIS modifier to 15. These aren’t commonly used finishers, even by me.

Replacing the rather underwhelming Crippling Strike enhancement (which did the same  as the Rogue version) in tier 5 Ninja Spy is the new Deadly Striker. With any weapon other than handwraps or quarterstaves, you gain +1 to critical hit modifier range, with kamas and shuriken get double the bonus. Yay for both Shuricannons and Saekee’s hyper-crit-range Forester’s Brush Hook build. (Most of the Ninja Spy changes affect all weapons except the new handwraps and quarterstaves.)

The ninja also gets a tier 2 Action Boost to Melee and Ranged Power. Happiness for all the builds I use, especially the Zen Archer, which is all about Ranged Power.

It kept getting better to be ninja. The first and second core enhancements, Ninja Training and Advanced Ninja Training, now apply to ANY weapon (again, except handwraps and staves) you can use while Centered.

This is BIG for the Zen builds as this means that neither absolutely require the Elf for the Grace enhancement to deliver Dexterity-to-Damage for longbows (but still needs the racial tree for weapon proficiency), and also means you can get these bows working far earlier in the build’s life. I’d still likely recommend Elf for weapon proficiency, the extra training available there to longbow damage, Dragonmarks for Displacement, and Doubleshot. But this changes saves a few Action Points you can reapply in other trees.

And here’s an obscure bonus I see as a benefit of this change. There is a singular named weapon that’s not a kama, shuriken, handwrap, quarterstaff or bow that Monks can wield while staying Centered and without being a Kensei. It’s the Midnight Greetings kukri. Melee ninja such as Ryncletica can use them more effectively since DEX-to-Damage will be activated.

However, the Monk class’s Martial Weapon Proficiency includes only handaxes (something only the Kensei could use right now) by default, so a precious feat must be added for proficiency in this special kukri. While the Heroic weapon isn’t very special, the classic Epic version of the weapon can do some serious work in early Epic lives. Requiring the feat for proficiency may not be worth it, and goodness knows how hard it is to gather the seal, scroll and shard ingredients needed to make any classic Epic crafted item.

Ninja Poison now scales with Melee Power. I’ll really want to see how the Poison Master build will work with this change–it’s all about stacking Poison DoTs. The little-used Poisoned Darts gain more Poison per stack (1d8), but that’s still welcome.

Here’s more. The final core enhancement, Ninja Master, adds +2 DEX and +2 WIS, with +1 Competence bonuses critical hit changed from range to threat modifiers (except for handwraps or staves). I can imagine Saekee just fainted: His Brush Hook build may get a threat range of 10-20 now.

More happiness for the Poison Master, as Poison Exploit’s damage rises to 1d10+10 per Ninja Poison stack.

Also, the Touch of Death negative energy strike scales to 200% Melee Power, and no longer requires you to train the Ninjutsu components to get it. It’s still a tier 5 ability, but for those that don’t care for Ninjutsu, it’s a build option.

Very happy change to Shadow Double. While its stacking Doublestrike bonus was decreased from 100% to 50%, its duration is doubled to 12 seconds, gains 3[W] in damage and has a shorter 20 second cooldown.

And it keeps getting better. Matching the Rogue Assassin tree changes, Stealthy and Faster Sneaking are merged and require 3 AP to fully activate. Also, the melee threat reducing Subtlety will be moved from tier 2 to tier 1, while the Dodge cap, Concentration boosting Ability requires more commitment in Ninja Spy as it moves up to tier 2.

Last but not least, each tier of Ninjutsu is cheaper to activate, with just 1 AP, but also gives +1 to to-hit and damage with all Centered non-handwrap/quarterstaff weapon for each trained enhancement.

I was hoping the Ninja Spy wouldn’t be nerfed. A good thing will actually become better. Yay!

Changes to the Henshin Mystic: Disappointing

For every silver lining in the notes, however, there’s more ominous clouds looming in confusing and contradictory changes for the Henshin Mystic.

The biggest changes to the Mystic is the removal of Spell Power for its damage boost to its Fire and Force damage. Instead, all core enhancements grant a stacking equivalent of Melee Power bonus. This is confusing to me because, of all the Monk classes, the Mystic’s original design was to leverage ki offensively like no other. Instead, the changes simply add in passive offensive boosts to a class that was doing just fine when swinging the staff, but had limited means to weaponize ki when using it.

Here’s a confusing one from the notes, which I must assume is in error. Sounding Staff now gives +2 ki per hit (removing the Implement bonus for Spell Power) and grants the Quick Draw feat. Uh, doesn’t the Quick Draw feat grant increases to rate of fire for ranged and thrown  weapons, not attack speed to the Mystic’s primary weapon, the quarterstaff? Is this feat supposed to augment the Ki Bolt ranged attack, which also gets a boost per Monk level rather than every two levels?

(Update: Teacher Ziindarax, a member of the Player’s Council, corrected me on a mistake in the Ninja Spy tier 5 and noted the logic of Quick Draw. “Quick Draw does benefit weapons, but it’s also being buffed so that you can actually attack faster after casting a spell or spell-like ability. Presumably, this would mean (for example) that if you had a warlock that used the Eldritch Burst or Spirit Blast abilities, and then tried to use a regular attack immediately afterwards, you would not suffer that irritating delay between the SLA and your regular melee/ranged attack. Instead, you get to attack instantly. Just to answer the question posed in your article as to how Quick Draw would benefit a Henshin Mystic.”)

The last core enhancement, Serenity, no longer gives Spell Power-related effects, goes to +4 WIS and adds +25 Melee Power.

Still trying to make the old original Ninja Spy enhancements useful, each Elemental Word gains 2{W} and +2 stacks to Vulnerability per hit. I guess the Melee Power bonuses to the elemental ki strikes used here might make for some great boosts to total damage.

Also, Void Strike remains at tier 5, virtually inaccessible to any other Monk, but gains 3[W] and its Force damage scales to Melee Power.

Some AP reductions to Mystic Training and Embrace the Void (not “Voice” as shown in the notes), requiring 1 AP to train. Also, the damage bonuses to Focus stack with other sources.

Lastly, the complicated Every Light Casts a Shadow enhancement now delivers 1d2 negative levels immediately on-hit to surrounding enemies, and 1d4 to the target.

That’s it for the Mystic. No attack speed or defense improvements.Spell Power-based attacks such as Incinerating Wave and  Cauldron of Flame aren’t mentioned in terms of what damage they create since the Spell Power boosts are being ripped out of the tree. Worthless enhancements like Negotiator and Mystic Training still remain. And you’ll still need to splash a Rogue to gain attack speed bonuses or (cheaper) Shintao abilities for defense.

I loved the potential of the Mystic’s attack power (and gushed about it here long ago) but it still lacks highly important defenses as it generates a terrible amount of aggro and cannot withstand such damage as Shintao Monks can do. I don’t see myself returning or recommending the Mystic unless there’s a way to improve defense and attack speed without multiclassing or using excessive AP in other Monk trees.

Until then, my two Mystics remain bank characters.

What Do You Think?

If you could make suggestions to the devs (and I dare say you should try), what would you ask them to adjust for these proposed adjustments to the Monk enhancements?

While the Shintao changes are good, and the Ninja Spy unbelievably improved, the Mystic’s adjustment make little sense other than improving its “El Kabong” mentality and further distancing its potential ability to wield ki for greater offense, defense or speed.

Fire away in the comments here.

 

Staying Alive

As with many of my characters, I never trained Lynncletica much beyond their aligned epic destiny of Grandmaster of Flowers. That’s changed, of course.

At level 26, she’s holding her level-ups as she fills up other destinies to gain other abilities when using Twist of Fate slots.

In what areas I have leveled, I found myself tempted to take epic feats that supported Lynn’s unarmed damage. But I’ve resisted so far.

If I’m ever to tank reliably in raids such as “Temple of the Deathwyrm”, I need two other abilities: physical resistance and healing amplification.

Both of these are supported in one defensive destiny I will use for tanking: Unyielding Sentinel. That’s no surprise, I’m sure.

My PRR goal was 150, or 60% damage reduction. Looks like I’ll easily have most of this, 142 PRR minimum, by level 27 with the following:

  • Ultimate Mountain Stance (Monk stance): 15, untyped
  • Iron Skin (Shintao enhancement): 15, untyped
  • Meditation of War (Shintao enhancement), 10, Insight bonus
  • Epic Damage Reduction (Epic feat, level 27): 10, untyped
  • Improved Combat Expertise (Legendary Dreadnought, tier 2, Twisted, while in Combat Expertise stance), 20, untyped
  • Heed No Pain (Unyielding Sentinel, while in Unbreakable stance): 30, untyped
  • Ring with Sheltering +27 (Enhancement bonus)
  • Planar Prowess (Antipode handwraps and Planar Focus of Prowess): 15, untyped
  • Guardian Angel (when <50% HP): 40-60 (WIS score and saving throws to PRR for 30 seconds)

There’s still more to play with depending on Twist of Fate slots, such as the tier 4 Standing with Stone from Grandmaster of Flowers as a Twisted ability (15 untyped), the level 29 Outfit of the Celestial Guardian’s +38 Sheltering, the Legendary Boots of the Devil Commander (Quality +8; it’s Insight bonus is offset by Meditation of War) and either Scion of Limbo for a chance at +30 PRR or Scion of Earth for +20.

Beyond 150 PRR, there’s little point. I’d be better off improving miss-chance, Reflex saves (which Lynn is weakest), AC and healing amplification.

A few friends in party have been impressed at my healing amplification, and I like it, too. Nowandays it’s easy to calculate this: Just open your character sheet and hover your mouse pointer over your HP information.

At level 27, I have an absolute minimum amp of 110. That comes from

  • Human Improved Recovery (racial enhancement): 60, untyped
  • Shintao core enhancements: 50

The guild airship buff Bath House adds 20.

The remaining are situational based on selected feats, destiny, Monk stance or equipped items.

  • Epic Jidz-Tet’ka (while in Fire Stance, Insight bonus): 50
  • Iron Mitts (Competence bonus): 60
  • Vigor of Battle (Unyielding Sentinel): 20
  • Scion of Limbo (Legendary feat, random buff): 40

Through equipment and Fire Stance, 270 is my current high in Unyielding Sentinel. This isn’t an optimal configuration as it compromises my PRR and AC defense significantly, so it’s for illustration.

lynn-amp-stat

Then I wear an epic Shamanic Fetish for a 108 equipment bonus to positive spell power, and a 28 Heal skill that stacks on this.

I smack the training dummy with Fists of Light vampiric healing curses. Here’s the result.

lynn-amp1.jpg

And then I use the Healing Ki finisher.

lynn-amp2.jpg

Yep. I heal myself for around 425 to 525 HP per 10 seconds on Healing Ki alone and restore 5 to 10 HP while charging it up per attack over about 10 seconds.

And, like most epic players, I twist Rejuvenation Cocoon, which hits for up to 9 seconds or until healed. I had to go into the Subterrane to find a living spell to damage me to test this. Here’s that result.

lynn-amp-cocoon

So Lynncletica, even with only 200 amp, should have ample means to keep herself hale and hearty through many fights, restoring one-third to one-half her HP at any time.

But it’s slash damage that scares me most, and I must do what little I can to ward off some of that, in as much as epic monsters will allow that. By level 27 the Guardian Cloak will have to help as I haven’t discovered any other mitigation options just yet.

I hope to tank my first raid this weekend. If it happens I’ll try to record or take a few shots of it. Tanks tend to be a busy sort of group.

 

 

Monastic Tanking

portrait-lynncletica1

I’ve been enjoying opportunities to run many raids, some I’ve rarely or never run before, such as “The Mark of Death” and “The Master Artificer.” I think, now, that the only raid I have never participated (primarily because of my disdain of the quest series needed to gather sigil, shield and frame ingredients) is “Accursed Ascension.”

But “Mark of Death” isn’t my favorite raid, anyway, so I’m sure “Ascension” won’t be a loss. I’ll still try to flag for it when an opportunity arises.

Ninety nine percent of my raids are as a DPS character, be it with the fortification-bypassing steady-hitting archery of Pynthetica, the crowd-controlling mass-destruction from the bow of Paracleta, or the poisonous shortsword damage of Ryncletica.

But one matter is common in many raids. The need for a tank, a character that can keep a central boss target busy while the rest of the party can remove trash and complete other related objectives necessary to eventually slay said bosses. Surprisingly, I’ve watched many a non-Fighter or non-Paladin accomplish this role in the Thunderholme raids.

I’ve mentioned, long ago, my work to align Lynncletica to become a tank. Nearing level 20, I’m closer to beginning my work to help out in epic raids.

But I know the character’s behavior in gameplay is just as important as the build to ensure that enemies pay attention to you and not the rest of the party.

The general article on the Tank on the DDO Wiki was helpful.

According to the article, a tank has to have central characteristics to be successful:

  • Health
  • Healing amplification
  • Armor Class
  • Saves
  • Damage Reduction
  • Intimidation (active and passive)
  • Balance
  • Weapons and items that increase Threat
  • Enhancements and other boosts

Health

Lynn’s HP gain per level as a Monk is only 75% of other melee tanks, requiring me to take the Toughness feat a few times and take Constitution enhancements from enhancements or Epic Destinies anywhere I can. My goal is to get Lynn to at least 1,000 HP this time around. That may seem low for a tank but as a Monk, Lynn has some special damage reduction abilities that others haven’t, such as miss-chance effects.

Unyielding Sentinel will likely be the default epic destiny, aiding not only in HP but threat and protection.

Damage Absorption

With recent changes, Lynn’s epic PRR should reach 100 or above. I was able to get Pynthetica’s PRR between 60 to 80 PRR with gear as an archer, so a Monk designed to tank should be able to improve that number. Like the miss-chance effects on Pyn, I have a lot of studying ahead of me to stack all available sources.

Healing amplification

At level 19, with a Shamanic Fetish in place, all Improved Recovery enhancements trained and with only one core enhancement left in the Shintao tree, Lynn’s Healing Ki can restore as much as 200 HP every 10 seconds. At around 490 HP, that’s helpful. This will improve with buffs and an epic Shamanic Fetish later in epic play. Healing amp gear also will play important roles, even items to add to my cross-class Heal skill.

Lynn might see 250-300 HP bursts from Healing Ki, with healing shield vampiric HP of 6-8 HP per strike probable. Self-healing is Lynn’s strongest quality.

Armor Class

Lynn’s AC is aided by Combat Expertise and the Monk’s Grandmaster of Mountains stance to boost total AC by 30%. All I must do I maximize the numbers through items to get that bonus. Around 150 to 200 AC is a suitable goal, but this will require a lot of item juggling and augment gems to boost Deflection and Natural Armor bonuses. Lynn’s DEX is lower so items to boost it and WIS for more AC will be critical.

Monks can’t use shields. But I can gain Shield bonuses from one item: A Flawless White Dragonscale Robe. I have a Flawless White helm, too, to get the HP artifact bonus. This set may be helpful over Shadowscale outfits until I can equip the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, still the best armor I think you can find for any Monk by level 28.

Saves

Lynn’s saves are better than many tanks but weaker in one area, and that’s Reflex. Thankfully, perhaps a +5 or +6 tome in combination with enhancements to get DEX and its Reflex save higher. Fortitude and Will saves will be superior, thanks to high STR and WIS.

Damage Reduction

I mentioned improving Lynn’s miss-chance numbers to help avoid damage. Monks gain DR 20/Epic at level 20. The epic Guardian’s Cloak from Wheloon is a popular item I use on all my epic characters, with additional DR help.

Intimidate

So I’ve practiced my protection skills against charging mobs using weaker-than-normal hirelings, clerics, typically. The central ability is Ki Shout, an Intimidate-like ability that uses a Shintao Monk’s Concentration skill as the Intimidate number.

Ki Shout works quite well and I’m able to keep my clerics from getting slaughtered despite the light spells they spam to tick off enemies.

But there’s also the passive Threat generation needed. Grandmaster of Mountains adds 200% additional Threat. I’m currently wearing the Fabricator’s Bracers with its sister gauntlets for 20% more. Epic destinies can help here later as I grow.

Balance

Lynn has a high Balance to get her back on her feet if knocked down. Items can help here as required. Again, Unyielding Sentinel could help here with Standing Against the Tide core destinies and supporting effects. To mitigate damage if knocked down is the Shintao enhancement Instinctive Defense to ward off up to 25% damage if helpless. Blocking while down is important, too.

Weapons

Handwraps are Lynncletica’s central weapon but she holds on to some Metalline aligned kamas to add slashing damage, as well as a Snowstar to lure enemies closer. I’m looking forward to using some of the recent new wraps such as Storm’s Harness.

Gameplay

Tanking only works when a party wants one around. Some parties will have players that just zerg ahead and gather aggro like there’s no tomorrow. By the time you’re able to aid in rescue, the player has either zapped most of what would have killed him or has died.

Or I’ll aggro a group and find out I’m over my head. Most of the time, Lynn holds to her Little Mountain title, enduring and outlasting many enemies. But champions and Legendary levels are game-changing. I’m totally pessimistic that even a fully-trained and equipped Lynncletica will survive a sword blow from Sor’jek atop the mountain summit in Legendary Tempest’s Spine, after I’ve watched so many others that have died to that attack.

But maybe others have missed something. Maybe I’ll find that something.

The Best Bug Ever

So I’ve been making many, many runs into “Good Intentions” to get the Legendary Magewright’s Toolkit (+4 Quality DEX) with Pynthetica.

For those not familiar with this quest, this revisit to the Saltire District (formerly trashed and haunted by Xoriat creatures and creations in the quest “Missing”) has you searching for three ingredient items for a Gnome that (as Gnomes do) didn’t consider that if something could be done, it doesn’t mean that it should be done.

Two of the items are in relatively fixed locations. The third is a pet of Durk the Deranged, a busy man for a crazy person, who’s part of this and two other quests (“Palace of Stone”, “Durk’s Got A Secret”).

His name is Nibbles.

He’s a squirrel.

He’s adorable.

And I couldn’t find the little bugger in one of the three spots he’s supposed to be digging for nuts.

I’m searching and using the item select all over the place. Then I caught his scent, but not his presence.

Disbelieving, I stared at the canal that intersects the district.

ScubaSquirrel

Apparently, Nibbles has borrowed Aquaman’s superpowers.

That’s one small swim for squirrels, one giant stroke for rodent-kind.

Durk’s pet, indeed. It’s just as crazy as he is.

A Final Review of My Builds

So, all three of the builds I created are sufficiently leveled and geared. I can now update the Monk guide with guidelines on what to expect as you start and level them.

Thanks so much for your suggestions, criticisms and patience as I’ve played through each one. I hope you will find them (or variants you design from them) useful and fun.

I don’t think I’ve made a post where I’ve spoken of them all in-depth. To avoid cluttering up the guide with such subjective drivel, I’ll post it here.

The Zen Archer

build1a

Purpose: High miss-chance, high Ranged Power Elven defensive sniper. 20 Monk (Harper Agent/Ninja Spy)

Best environments:

  • Attacking enemies using missiles or magic, as they have a very hard time making a successful hit against the build due to its high Concealment, Incorporeality, Dodge, Improved Evasion, PRR, AC and Spell Resistance
  • Quests where stealth can be used to allow sniping from a distance. Enemies often never reach this build before she kills them with Deception, Epic Destiny abilities, and Tendon Slice effects.

Worst environment:

  • Legendary raids, where the enemy CR is sufficient to bypass most of the build’s layered defenses
  • Raids with mostly Red-named enemies (such as “Defiler of the Just”), where the build’s DPS and single-target enemy controls to slow or stop enemies is neutralized

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • High sustained ranged DPS, second only to Zen Bowmaster, thanks to higher Ranged Power from Harper Agent
  • Fast takedown with higher innate Ranged Power and Deception effects that add Sneak Attack damage
  • Useful 33% standing Doubleshot with EDs and gear
  • Strongest stealth skills, but slower movement speed in stealth
  • Miss-chance effects, spell resistance and PRR allow sustained DPS even when attacked by several enemies at once
  • Using Harper Agent and Elf Dragonmark enhancements, can gain 6-minute Displacement
  • Can use Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot, works well with “Furyshot.”
  • High Diplomacy, useful in several instances
  • Damage dependent on DEX, bow quality and arrows
  • Has best fortification-bypass options; can land 100+ hits against Legendary Shroud planar gateways with 55% fortification bypass thanks to Epic Destiny abilities and Thunder-Forged longbow
  • Easy build to train other EDs, once Pin and Otto’s Whistler are available in Twist of Fate slots
  • Uses Precise Shot only to build up damage bonuses and limit Threat generation
  • As a stationary fighter, generates the best sustained damage against toughest enemies

The Zen Archer was discussed on the forums, and you can find more build information in the Monk guide.

The Zen Bowmaster

build2b.jpg

Purpose: High-DPS offensive ranged attacker. 20 Monk (Arcane Archer)

Best environment: Enemies with low Will saves.

Worst environment:

  • Quests or raids against some special Red-named enemies or enemies with higher Will saves (enemy Clerics, Paladin/Blackguards, shamans) that resist attack DCs
  • Quest or raids where the build generates too much aggro; the build has the lowest overall defenses

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • Very high DPS. Bow damage combines with Ranged Power and arrow imbues augmented by spell power from the AA tree.
  • Uses both Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot for highest burst Doubleshot while in Divine Crusader ED – up to 240%
  • Highest standing Doubleshot on first life (75% with feats, ED, AA and gear)
  • Versatile attack options from the AA tree (blunt/piercing/slash/Doubleshot) and elemental, force, paralyzing, banishing and smiting effects
  • AA imbues are based on WIS modifier. As a Monk, build can greatly boost WIS to use as to-hit modifier (Zen Archery feat), generating extra AC, and creating DCs for arrow effects that operate even in Legendary Elite raids, especially paralyzing
  • Fair fortification bypass
  • Useful, but not superior miss-chance effects
  • Sustained damage lower than Zen Archer but imbued spell power attacks compensate often for increased damage per attack for some enemies over Zen Archer
  • Not as weapon-dependent as Zen Archer unless enemy resists AA attacks due to higher fortification
  • Uses Improved Precise Shot, which often causes great Threat generation

You’ll find the fundamental build information in the Monk guide.

The Poison Master Ninja

build3a

Purpose: High-DPS offensive melee Drow. 20 Monk (Ninja Spy)

Best environment: Enemies with low Fortitude saves.

Worst environment:

  • Quests or raids where enemies can resist special attacks that cause Helplessness, Nausea, or Blindness
  • Quest or raids where enemies are immune from Negative Energy or Poison

DPS and Weaknesses:

  • Medium High to Very High DPS, depending on whether Helplessness can be used
  • Second-best stealth skills (second to Zen Archer), fastest movement speed while Sneaking
  • Best instant-kill power against isolated enemies, using finishing moves or Quivering Palm attack
  • Ninja Spy training augments stealth, defense, movement speed, Dexterity to-hit and to-Damage with shortswords and shuriken, Sneak Attack damage and Ninja Poison, a powerful DoT effect that cannot be resisted except by Poison-immune enemies
  • Drow racial feats and enhancements add Shuriken and Shortsword prowess as well as additional Poison damage
  • Optional Epic Destiny Feat choices can add greater Doublestrike, Doubleshot and bonuses to Dodge and Dodge cap (to 34%)
  • Some Ninja Spy Monk finishing moves cause Helplessness, allowing No Mercy enhancement (and, in Epic, stacking with Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness) to generate 30 to 60% additional damage on Helpless enemies
  • As a melee fighter without a shield, defenses are limited to WIS (AC bonus), Combat Expertise, high miss-chance effects, and movement speed

Detailed information can be found in the Monk guide.

The Wisdom to Stop Time

ScreenShot01991

Lolth picked a fight with the wrong adventurers.

I’m sorry for being way-off my 2 per month post goals. Lots of real-life stuff, particularly losing my job. Hated the place anyway and had been on the market for several weeks prior. Prospects are good, however, so at present, when I’m not job searching each day, I’m getting a lot of play time.

Each of the three builds I’ve made turned out to have a certain “schtick”–a fortunate bonus to its design for which I didn’t originally plan.

For Pynthetica the Zen Archer, the high-DEX also makes her very difficult to kill, even against the party-wiping AoE from the end-boss of “Defiler of the Just” or the electro-bombs from the Stormreaver in “Fall of Truth.” She just upgraded her Thunder-Forged Longbow to tier 3 with Mortal Fear and life is very, very good. After she completes leveling Fury of the Wild, I plan to make her my first Epic TR character, going Primal for more Doubleshot through Epic Past Lives.

For Ryncletica the Poison-master, her Drow heritage not only adds to her poison skills but also made her just as deadly with shuriken, a type of “Shuricannon“-lite. She’s my “on-timer” character right now when the archers are on raid timers.

In the case of Paracleta the Zen Bowmaster, my desire for a build with a very high Doubleshot has found serendipity from her core abilities as an Arcane Archer.

Before the recent updates to the AA tree, Paralyzing Shot showed this pitiful quality to this and many of its special non-elemental arrow imbues:

oldAAparalysis

Those arrows were fine until you hit Epic levels, where a DC of 26 gained you slightly better than “Improved Paralyzing” weapon effects. In other words, you weren’t likely to freeze anything except on a low enemy save.

Now, AAs have WIS modifiers combined with any Enchantment focus DCs as your modifier.

newAAparalysis

The changes in the AP for the tree helped free up some points for defense from Ninja Spy, as well.

Now, the classes that tend to use WIS offensively are few. Clerics and Rangers and Paladins use it to get more spell points or qualify for certain spells. Favored Souls use WIS for their offensive DCs. Monks use WIS to influence their level of ki, calculate the DCs for Stunning Fist, and gain an AC bonus based on the modifier.

But they also use WIS as the to-hit modifier for bows when the Zen Archery feat is used.

For a Ranger AA to appreciate the AA DC change, they’d have to give up something important: STR (damage rolls) or DEX (to-hit) to raise WIS more than the usual 14 points that the class requires to use all of their small cache of spells.

Monkchers also will sacrifice decent DCs since they, too, will want to add more to STR. Their benefits from Zen Archery simply come from being centered with the bow. They can’t add more WIS if they want to follow their high-DPS damage track.

This is where Paracleta shines. She has only two central stats that form her offensive joy: WIS and DEX. Unlike Pyncletica, however, things are turned around in importance. WIS applies a higher AC bonus and ki management while also giving the to-hit. All I need to do is add a bit more DEX for the Elven DEX-to-damage. And as an AA, spell power really brings out extra damage that doesn’t require me to go nuts with DEX (although I’m still adding effects where I can). I can deal over 100 points of Fire damage to go with the 100 physical damage of one arrow.

So I’ve pumped WIS as high as I can go.

How high? You’re invited to view a spreadsheet with the estimates.

I filled in what I could expect in the best scenario in the row on level 30. Let me summarize.

By level 30, Par has a 58 minimum WIS, no matter the destiny, now that she’s read a +6 WIS tome. That’s only with the base, tomes, Ocean Stance, an Insightful WIS +6 item, a +15 WIS item, a +2 Festive WIS augment. With the +2 untyped bonuses of the Yugoloth and DDO elixirs, it’s 62 minimum.

Now add in up to +6 WIS from either the Primal Avatar or Divine Crusader destinies. If I go Primal Avatar, the Spirit Boon ability gives another +2 WIS for as long as I have Spirit to supply it. Better and more flexible: I can Twist the Fury of the Wild’s tier 2 ability Acute Instincts for a +2 WIS with just a Rage potion.

House Deneith potions can give up to +3 Alchemical bonus to WIS for about 1 minute or two.

The last item I needed to find that stacks is the Legendary Earthen Mantle, the only game item with Quality WIS, +4 in this case. That’s in “Search and Rescue,” with a long fight through the Underdark optional. Thanks to some great guildmates, I have that item, and helped them score some sought-after gear of their own afterward.

As a bonus for spell power, in “Memoirs of an Illusory Larcener” is an incredible spell power-boosting tiara, the Legendary Pansophic Circlet, that will be good for special occasions.

I could also Twist at least +1 WIS from any other destiny, but at the compromise of ki (Enlightenment from GMoF) or extra fortification (Brace for Impact from Unyielding Sentinel).

Finally, in a party with a good Bard, Inspire Excellence gives a +2 Competence to WIS. The Fatesinger destiny could add a +2 additional WIS and a boost to already-hasted attack speed but gives no other WIS bonus.

That’s at least a possible, but brief, 76-80 WIS, or a 53 minimum Will DC to stop many things cold. WIS 72 is sustainable for 1 to 15 minutes. Add in a +5 Enchantment item and that’s a 61 DC, with Insightful and Enhancement bonuses added for a few more DC points, including this lovely gem that dropped for me for use very recently. Other Enchantment DC boosts are Equipment or untyped bonuses, so yay for me.

Topaz of Gr Enchantment

 

I might have mentioned this before. So why am I excited?

To start, several weeks ago, I completed a level 32 Epic Elite “Grim and Barrett” and paralyzed hordes of CR 50ish Abishi very reliably at only 53 WIS, or a 41 DC. I’ve also kept great control of trash in a “Caught in the Web” EH run a couple of weekends back.

Later, the team entered a Legendary Tempest’s Spine on Elite. It was grueling, but we made it. I made a video of it, which you can find here. Sadly, a glitch in my sound settings left the video silent with no audio at all.

Just for giggles as a comparison to Szyncletica’s effort, I decided to run a solo Heroic Shroud with Paracleta on Normal. I was proud of Szyn’s effort but she was nowhere close to what an AA can do. In Shiradi mode, Par’s DPS blew away the portals and I got a good set of lieutenants to mow down in part 2. I did part 3 deliberately slow to avoid colliding into the prismatic wall with 7 rooms left to fill with water, bypassing the puzzle solving. I took down Harry in one round in part 4 and bested him again in part 5 to conclude the raid in about 45 minutes.

But the real adventure, a very, very grueling one, was with the cool kids in our meta-guild with Legendary Shroud on Hard. With fatal one-shot sneak-attacks from Troglodyte Assassins on part 1 and deadly ghost kittehs in part 2, it was challenging from the beginning. The great news was that Paracleta was able to stop just about everything to slow down the attacks on the party. But there were more trials, especially in part 4 where we had to work out a plan when we couldn’t kill Harry in one go. The team devised one idea to help against the hyper-healing gnolls, and that involved Paracleta’s bow.

The video is captioned and there is lots of sound except from my own mic. (Lousy voice, anyway). It took us 2 hours and we were slightly short-manned to boot, but it was a success. The video is not edited so here are the timestamps for each part:

  • Part 1: Start
  • Part 2: 27 min 56 sec
  • Part 3: 1 hour 10 min 31 sec
  • Part 4: 1 hour 21 min
  • Part 5: 1 hour 47 min 55 sec

Paracleta seems to find that 70 WIS is the magic number for reliability in raids where paralysis can work. The most practical configuration will be any destiny with +6 WIS and the Legendary Earthen Mantle with all stacking items, or 72-74 WIS. There are no other items with stacking WIS that I can find except perhaps some Exceptional WIS +1 item, but this matters little if the ability score is even to make the modifier. There’s a remote chance of finding a WIS 16 item.

Paracleta can still be a tad squishy, though far less than a Ranger that aggros as much as she does.Thankfully, with enough WIS to stop things cold, they have to reach me first. The downside, for now, in paralysis mode, is that I’m dependent on killing damage from the bow alone. Even with spell power boosts and the Thunder-Forged bow, the time it takes to remove a hardy CR 53 enemy can take too long alone. It’ll take the tier 3 upgrade with Mortal Fear to help more here–though not on Legendary raids, where Mortal Fear is deliberately nerfed, although its extra Force damage will work nicely with the Legendary Earthen Mantle’s Impulse spell power boost.

So, we’ll see, sometime, if Legendary Elite (is that “Reaper?”) enemies can be stopped by Paracleta’s paralysis.

Now with an Epic Dynamistic Quiver and Shadow Arrows kicked on, Paracleta has a standing 78% Doubleshot. Whatever attacks isn’t going to do it for long, especially when I switch to Divine Crusader and kick on Zeal of the Righteous for that 50 Doubleshot buff and Ranged Power boost, combined with either of the many-shot feats: 220 to 240%.

Bowmaster Ascendant

Paracleta22Skipping low-reward chains to reach level 20 and beyond, the Bowmaster Paracleta is remarkably adept at controlling trash and even some minibosses as she wins Elite quests.

Gear, especially bows, is important but not as critical as leveling and flagging for raids that can yield greater rewards than plodding through the usual chains repeatedly.

One important point I neglected to account from the original build (and a change in the enhancement tree with a recent update) is that the Arcane Archer tree is cheaper to work up to 40 action points. This left me with enough remaining to fully complete the core Elven racial enhancements and add Shadow Veil from Ninja Spy into the fold, reserving 2 AP for the last AA cores. I previously noted how the use of WIS modifiers for the DCs of several imbues are what give this Zen build its characteristic flavor. Thanks to a reader that noted that they were able to accommodate Shadow Veil in a variant of this build.

Another matter involves Doubleshot. At level 20, I have 30% and can’t account for the sources. I’ve got the 5% effect of Shadow Arrows now at level 22, the 10% bonus on capping the AA core to come at level 25, and but Epic Destiny Doubleshot feat until level 27. But who am I to complain? I’m sure I can trace it, but time is a bit limited.

She’s working her way through the Devil Battlefield now for Yugoloth favor and the +2 ability potions, but low bow damage made it hard going. At level 21, she has the Combat Archery feat for extra weapon damage and completed the Eveningstar Drow quests, holding my experience levels so that destiny levels are completed. Starting from Grandmaster of Flowers to the primal tree to get Rejuvenation Cocoon and Shiradi Champion’s Pin and Otto’s Whistler and fill all destinies to get Twists unlocked and filled. I’d like to have Shiradi running by the time Paracleta enters her first “Caught in the Web.”

There’s so much going on as this character grows swiftly that I’m worried I will miss out on some XP opportunity. But that’s why raid flagging and the support I can get there might make a difference. I’m using sagas more and more on this. Paracleta is raid-designed. Hopefully she can keep substantial amounts of trash too afraid to fight in “Fire on Thunder Peak” and “Caught in the Web” or help in the DPS in other raids. I so want to get this girl into the weekend raid parties that remain the awesome group they’ve always been for fun raids, even in failure.

A comment or two in the last post from Teacher Jammond reminded me that AA imbues get damage bonuses from spell power. So destinies in the Arcane tree could be just as nasty as others. I’ve began study of adding Equipment bonuses of Magnetism (for great Electric imbue boosts against pit fiends), Combustion (icy enemies), and Impulse (Force damage) to have an enhanced DPS solution on hand against certain bosses. Still using my Unwavering Ardency bow in the Storm Horns, that bow with the Fire Arrows imbue, boosted with the Improved enhancement, really fry fire-sensitive enemies.

At level 22 now, Pynthetica granted her sister a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged longbow. Pyn’s early advantages in Harper Agent Ranged Power helps in damage as Paracleta’s damage is less than Pyn’s at the same level—the difference caused by the Ranged Power variation as well as slightly lower DEX. All this superb crowd control isn’t useful if Paracleta can’t slay bosses before they slay her, or if it takes too long to rid herself of a held mob before one enemy gets in a lucky strike. Going Shiradi will help, as will Epic Power as she levels a bit more.

Paracleta will hold her level at 23 as she pumps XP only into as many Epic Destinies, particularly Primal, for healing, fate points, and of course boosts to abilities and damage. As with Pynthetica and Mericletica, getting Pin as a Twisted ability is helpful. I wonder if Pin works with Improved Precise Shot, affecting all in the line of that arrow’s fire. If so, my, my. Same for Otto’s Whistler. I want to take significant Epic Destiny feats when I’m eligible.

A guildmate donated what I needed for a Seal of the Black Abbot to unlock my Unwavering Ardency bow’s Blinding power and requested a video. Time is short to get one in on this post, but perhaps I can work one in next time, on Heroic Elite, with one of my favorite quests, “What Goes Up.” That will also illustrate Paracleta’s near-perfect paralysis crowd control. Only enemy Clerics and a few Champions resist my AA Paralysis to be a serious threat.

To keep that perfect control with paralysis means I’ve got to keep that WIS high. Right now she’s around 40. Good, but not great. I want 50 at minimum and expect that 60 is my Epic Elite minimum for 75% or better DC success. For that, I need to keep an eye on better Insightful Wisdom items, WIS 10 or better items, and get the special Festive bonus when I’m able.

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