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.

 

 

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The End to Farming for Silver+Good Handwraps

Van Helsing: Bringing the right tool and attitude for the job.

The monastic life of unarmed combat in Stormreach in the realm of DDO and realms beyond has, frankly, been a pain in the hands for many Monks.

While other classes could wield all kinds of weapons that can help bypass an enemy’s innate material or alignment-based damage reductions, the Monk is a special case.

The body of the unarmed Monk is the weapon. Handwraps aren’t coded as weapons but enhancements that add to the effectiveness of unarmed damage.

And that is the rub. To fight gracefully, a Monk must remain Centered. This means you can’t wear any light, medium or heavy armor. You can wear an outfit, a robe, or run about in your brown skivvies if that’s your thing. You’re also limited to only a few weapons outside of handwraps that could add the same DR-bypassing goodness of a traditional melee character–at the expense of slightly slower attack speed than fighting unarmed, as well as being prohibited from using some of the Monk’s speciality unarmed-only tactics such as Stunning Fist and the Dark Monk’s Touch of Death.

As Monks enter level 16 and begin flagging themselves in the Vale of Twilight for “The Shroud,” a question enters the mind of a Monk. How can my fists effectively damage a devil or demon? These creatures are among the nastiest denizens in the game, especially on their home turf in Shavarath or the Demonweb.

By level 16, all Monks can bypass Magic (L4), Lawful (L12) and Adamantine (L16) material protections. But lesser devils require either Good-aligned handwraps/materials (such as Flametouched Iron) or Silver weaponry to hurt them effectively. Any Monk can wear Holy or Pure Good handwraps easily enough in this case.

But soon a Monk will encounter the horned devils and the pit fiends. These devils require your hands to bypass Silver and Good simultaneously to bypass their damage reduction.

Before Update 14, you had a handful of options to keep your unarmed fighting working best:

 

  1. Be a Light Monk and complete all Shintao Monk training levels. This adds Byeshk, Cold Iron and Silver unarmed damage reductions to your fighting. Just wear some Good-aligned handwraps and you’re, er…good.
  2. As a Dark Monk, win the lottery by farming for and finding the Devout Handwraps: +2 Metalline of Pure Good handwraps, or finding a pair of randomly generated Silver Threaded of Pure Good handwraps on the Auction House (for insane prices) or in chest loot.
  3. Have an Artificer grant you a Planar Weapons good-alignment buff or a Silver Weapons buff, depending on what you have on-hand (so to speak).
  4. Be a high-level Cannith craftsman and make your own Metalline of Pure Good handwraps.
  5. Cry.

 

(Oh, and while you Dark Monks are farming, you’ll need Cold Iron-studded of Pure Good and Byeshk-threaded handwraps if you didn’t find Metalline of Pure Good handwraps, since Xoriat creatures don’t care about Silver.)

As of Update 17, however, all Monks can rejoice, as the expensive and frustrating preparations needed to have Silver+Good handwraps has been (somewhat) mercifully resolved by the developers.

Monks have two absolute requirements to ridding themselves of the imminent devils on their back: You need to own or be able to access either the Catacombs or the Delera’s Tomb adventure pack.

The key can be found in either adventure (although getting both packs is ideal), thanks to updates to two handwrap sets I’ve considered standard equipment at early training: the Devotion and Eternal Rest handwraps.

Before Update 17, each set possessed half of the Silver/Good answer for unarmed fighting. Eternal Rest handwraps were silver-threaded. The Devotion handwraps were Flametouched Iron and Holy.

As with much of the named gear in Update 17, both handwraps received a great makeover with a small price. The developers corrected the redundancy of Holy with Flametouched Iron in the Devotion handwraps  and made them haughtier: +3 Enhancement damage, Holy, Devotion +48, and a Red augment slot. They bind to character on equip, so you can still farm them with one character and give them to others.

The important part: That Red augment slot. This slot can accept a Ruby of Silvered Strikes. Ta-da: Harry Beaters that can fully damage a pit fiend or horned devil.

Similarly, I discovered that the Eternal Rest handwraps got a similar revision: +2 Enhancement damage, Ghost Touch, Silver-threaded , Undead Bane with a Red augment slot as well. Add a Ruby of Good later in your life and you have another Harry Beater set.

The challenge, of course, is finding that specific Ruby. Both can be bought using Tokens of the Twelve (the new name for “Epic Dungeon Tokens”) from the Epic vendor there. You can farm Tokens with a higher-end character from “Devil Assault” or other Eberron epic level quests. You might get lucky and the thing drops for you in your loot. Gems are not bound to character; your “altitis” may just pay off.

Or–you may find yourself looking on the Auction House for these gems at insane prices.

Didn’t I mention something like that before? (Sigh.)

Okay, so it may still require a harsh amount of resources to get a decent set of Harry Beater handwraps. At least it’s easier to get a set of upgradable handwraps themselves with minimal effort, as opposed to a gargantuan amount for a fully working pair.

 

“Who Will Kite the Judge?”

I’ve been busy in preparing my Strength-based light Monk, Lynncletica, to take over the reins as my level 20 melee fighter with Syncletica’s TR scheduled for Easter (an appropriate time than any, don’t you think?). Lynn received her Void Strike IV and capped in the last week, a fully capable Grandmaster of Mountains, but not tested in any Epic as yet.

Lynn was still short two of her flagging quests for the Tower of Despair. Fellow guildies that I would love to invite were scarce that day (blame NCAA March Madness, I think) so, desperate to Get ‘Er Done, I studied the two quests left to do: “Bastion of Power” and “A New Invasion.” I brought in Heystack the Cleric hireling for emergencies and parked him in passive mode at the start of “Invasion” and got to work, carefully at first.

I’ve generated quite an affinity for Syncletica, my main toon, a Dexterity-based light Monk and a Grandmaster of Wind. She’s now well-geared and very dangerous, so I’m hardly hesitant in sending her solo through all but a very few non-Epic places in the game . But Lynncletica has a history of venturing where archons fear to tread, and taking more damage to boot. But, now a Grandmaster with her capstone of DR 10/Epic, enought had changed in Lynn’s durability to put her Grandmaster training to a full test–but not insanely. I entered both quests on Casual just to get them flagged.

Alone in the Bowels of Amrath

In both quests, Lynn alternated between Fire Stance to generate ki and held in Mountain Stance for damage and defense. The swarms of orthons, devils and tieflings were quite manageable; only the air elementals posed a challenge if they joined up with mobs. They’d either push Lynn away or, worse, knock her down. Fortunately, elementals are Outsiders, so, once I noted their fight pattern, a quick Tomb of Jade strike froze the blowhards solid, whereby I pummeled the things into nothingness.

Came the time for the end-fight. As vets of this quest know, you fall into a circular room. Everything is trapped, specifically a series of platforms that surround the deadly interior. In addition to a small mob of devils is Barnzidu, one really honked-off pit fiend. Your challenge in killing him involves the healing curses that the fiend throws in combination with the platforms that release a deadly explosion if anything (players, hirelings, soulstones) stand on the platform longer than a few seconds.

But Lynn was durable enough (thanks to playing Casual). Her Evasion, combined with her ability to remove her own curses, made the fight generally easy. It’s like what Dory said, in a fashion. “Just keep running…just keep running…”

The “Bastion” run was more challenging because of the recurring spawns and the confusing layout. By the time I found myself to the end-boss, my ship buffs were completely gone. Taking out the fiend there wasn’t too hard (sadly, I couldn’t use his reverse gravity to get the switches to the third chest). The maralith arrived and I began to pummel it, focusing too hard on its hit points and not on my own. Ding.

Luckily, the maralith had only a handful of hit points, and I had a Spirit Cake from the 6th DDO Birthday. Exactly two punches later, it was over. Sadly, no special loot from either of these quests, but at least Lynn was flagged for Tower of Despair.

The Little Mountain Must Stand

A day or so later, I found a PuG for Tower that was filling fast. The leader was nice and cordial but often his verbal requests were often ignored; maybe only he, myself and one other cared to use voice chat. One good sport teleported me to the ToD entrance (thanks!) else you have to run there (a NPC at the entrance will allow you direct teleport to the entrance in the future once you speak to him).

The party leader asks for someone to kite the Judge, a massive orthon, in part 1 of our fight. No one responds. He asks a second time before I do the unthinkable. I normally do not see Monks as decent kiters as they do not generate enough aggro to keep the monster focused on them. Kiting also has its risks in getting the full wrath and damage when fighting a boss alone.

“I’ll kite the Judge,” I say, with no small amount of trepidation. This time, I wouldn’t be running on Casual. It was a raid, on Normal. It was Lynn’s most definitive build test to date: Would she be able to keep the Judge busy and live?

The party falls inside the lair. Death at this stage is similar to Part 4 of The Shroud. Should you die here, the Jailer will teleport you and your soulstone into a jail where resurrection is impossible until after both he and the Judge are dead. If too many people die here, the raid will wipe. The area is filled with undisarmable traps amidst narrow platforms, all surrounded by Shararath lava (far more damaging per second than regular lava). A few fire elementals and hellhounds stir up the works as well.

The bulk of the party charges the Jailer. I kick into Fire stance, make a beeline to the Judge and strike him a few times to build up ki before changing to Mountain Stance. In this Ultimate stance, I generate 70% more threat but also gain more damage resistance.

It worked. The orthon becomes very ticked at me and doggedly chased my butt all over the area, ignoring everyone else.

Both Jailer and Judge also perform a maneuver that flings the party away en masse, where you have to re-engage and pray you aren’t tossed into a trap or lava. Monks don’t fly but we glide very, very well, so I am able to re-engage the Judge quickly. One Cleric was kind and wise enough to stick close to me and throw me a few heals when my own Healing Ki was insufficient to the damage received.

Lynn was tenacious and as durable as I hoped her build would be. She pounded the orthon mercilessly, taking relatively little damage when confronting the Judge head-on (his pea-shooter is nasty if he targets you from a distance). Even with criticals, Lynn wasn’t going to lower the orthon’s hit points; they were far too numerous for her to make a sizable dent against him.

But Mountain Stance IV training (combined with Epic DR) had paid off. Lynncletica stood as solidly as a little mountain, holding the orthon’s attention long enough for the Jailer to meet his end before the party turned to end the Judge together.

In hindsight, I should’ve switched to my Vampiric Stonedust Wraps for extra healing and possible stoneskins on myself for more protection, but it all worked well enough.

The remaining raid went off without a hitch. For loot, Lynncletica received the best item she could get that wasn’t a ring: Oremi’s Necklace. Now she needn’t switch to Fire Stance for ki as often.

So now, Lynncletica needs to continue beefing up her WIS and DEX for a bit more AC (Syncletica holds at 51 unbuffed). Her next target: the Icy Raiment. She’s been running solo attempts at Garamol for those, but perhaps I’ll get a few guildies’ attention to help.

Looks like Lynn will be a fine successor to Syn as time passes.

And the Rock Said, “No Hiding Place”

Seems that my adventures have caused a few–questions in our dojo.

Long ago, against the advice and teachings of my abbot, Syncletica, a Grandmaster of Wind, I chose the ancient and disused philosophy of the Mountain. In my first adventures, I came back bloodied and beaten from tasks of justice asked me, but survived.

Today, my abbot has requested a private session. She has asked me, an acolyte, to begin teaching on the Way of Stone. While it may be an honor, I am terrified. The terrors of Xoriat and Shavarath are on our doorstep, some say. Why in the name of the Host would any of my lessons be superior to that of our abbot’s plans (who has met with several generals who have dared to take on Stormreach).

Syncletica corrected me. “It is not that your technique is superior. No one monk stance is completely superior over others. However, were we all to fight as I fight, I fear our victories would begin to fade.”

She explained.

“When I was an acolyte myself, I felt drawn to stay in the Fire stance more, believing that my increases in Strength and ki generation would allow me to dominate. But the stance reduced my wisdom, preventing me from making more critical strikes to stun or disable enemies before they could even put up a fight.”

“Later, I chose the Way of Wind but learned to move between it and Fire stance. While in Wind stance, I’m physically weaker but much faster. Since I can strike far faster and more often, I can readily take down mobs very quickly.”

“I watched many good monks become more rigid than I once was. They mastered one stance and almost never left it. As a result, when it came to certain brutes, their lack of training in multiple techniques left them more likely to be resurrected than victorious.”

“But you have…you have rediscovered that the best offense may be a good defense. Tell me again about your adventures in the Vale of Twilight.”

So I did. While in the third level of Mountain Stance, I recalled how I was able to quickly overpower enemies, even those of which I had not yet learned how to bypass their stronger defenses–all through sheer brawn inherent in the stance. The result was obvious: I was not faster, but simply more powerful, able to dispatch stronger enemies faster, through massively critically strikes, than the multiple hits in Wind stance.

Syncletica began to change into a light outfit. “And that is what we need to learn, Lynncletica. While speed has its usefulness, the toughest enemies are just that: Tough. We need to ensure we don’t get, well, set in our ways. Each path is a gift, even I didn’t understand it at first when you began your training.”

“All of Xendrik will fall if any of us–archers and fighters, thieves and holy warriors–if any of us become too predictable, or even expect an adventure to always go by the book, based on other’s recollections. Who is “right” doesn’t matter. All monks in my tutelage must understand what you understand–and that training starts with me,” the abbot said as she began to wrap her hands in training cloth. “We begin. Tonight.”

It was…weird, last night, as a light breeze moved through the orange blossoms of the trees surrounding our home. I stood there, teaching my teacher the way of Stone.