Real Life Debuff

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As if unemployment could really feel like this. It’s worse.

As noted in past posts, I’m still in the game but sporadically. Unemployment still plagues my family, so real-life comes first before all other things, obviously. My Concentration score has to be higher in front of my computer than within it as an avatar. My game skills are insufficient as wage-earning.

I did frighten a few friends by rolling up a Gnome wizard a week or so ago, just to keep them on their toes. They thought I’d lost my mind.

If there are any topics you’d like me to address in future posts, do comment with suggestions.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

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.

lynn-dw1.jpg

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.

lynn-dw2.jpg

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

scales

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.

 

 

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