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.

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.

Aang Would Be Proud: The “Avatar” Build

I’m always trying to find something new, something that pushes the innate power of Monks to its fullest.

With that, I’m happy to talk about Quintessica, a halfling Monk that goes pppphfff! to Prestige Enhancements. She is trying to do for Monks what Hulk does to…well, everything, actually. She smashes.

I’ve done a little studying on the forums-so thanks to those who’ve already had an idea to emulate Aang and Korra from Avatar: The Last Airbender and it’s successor, The Legend of Korra. A Monk that possesses all four Grandmaster stances should be a highly adaptable fighter.

Downsides:

  1. Action Points usage will be horrific. It’s already tight to fulfill PreE prerequisites, the PreE and its levels itself, one Grandmaster, Monk Improved Recovery, Void Strike IV and have enough for Monk capstone. To master all elemental stances, you simply must sacrifice PreEs, to start.
  2. No Shintao Monk PreE means that Quintessica will have a harder time in DR breaking. Update 14 and Cannith Crafting fixes this a little: More metal-laced handwraps fall in the game, especially at high levels, and crafting allows customization of needed wraps for special occasions. Having a Artificer handy means less stress as well.
  3. The STR, DEX, CON and WIS ability stats must reach 18, minimum, to use their respective Grandmaster stance. Thankfully, Update 14 and the DDO Store appear to have made +3 Tomes available as a permanent offering. Quin is a halfling, a matter I’m still rethinking but I stand by her better overall stats, save STR.
  4. Fewer special attacks mean a consideration of new attacks. Update 14 added Dodge bonuses to the feats that lead up to Whirlwind Attack, something I’ve considered in past builds but never did–until now. That needed a big INT tome but, happily, I’ve pulled 2 +3 tomes lately (sold one for a big replenishment of plat on Lynncletica). That ate three feats and I’ve as yet to see how this will fare with things such as Two-Weapon Fighting feats.
  5. You can have all 4 Grandmasters or Monk Serenity capstone. There aren’t enough APs for both. Thankfully, Master Ocean Stance and new Enhanced Ki +1 items in game will help a bit here.

The whole idea of Quintessica is to maximize the power of finishing moves, stuns, attacks such as Shining Star and Quivering Palm, and utilize her Halfling speed to create the ultimate in Waif-Fu that would make River go, “Nice..!”

I spent the weekend with some awesome guildmates that quickly helped her reach level 12. With that, and a feat respec, the Mighty Quin pulls out her paralyzing handwraps for some interesting crowd control in fights.

Potential problems: Quin’s HP is dangerously low. She needs to kill and fast. My experience with Lynncletica’s Grandmaster of Earth defenses mean good things for Quinn as long as doesn’t pull too much threat inherit from the stance. I mentioned the DR issues, so she will likely become my first kama master and quarterstaff wielder for tough cases until she gets more advanced handwraps. I like that idea since I have a Raul’s Might, Dreamspitter and Dream Edge available to her.

Another changed feat with Update 14 I’m considering: Precision. It provides extra damage, stacks with Monk stances (as do other fighting stances) and may make a serious dent in a punch-drunk Monk’s success.

I’m terrible at posting pictures in posts, much less build summaries (any tips on easy use of this is appreciated), but I will keep you apprised on how Quin is doing.