Poison Mastery: “You Are Already Dead”

fukiyaKiricletica continues her swift leveling, completing the adventures necessary to reach the little village of Eveningstar to enjoy the Wheloon adventures.

She’s now level 19 and looking forward to level 20’s benefit of Ninja Mastery, the last core ability that gives +2 DEX, extra competence in shortswords, shuriken and kamas, and gives Vorpal to all of these weapons.

Her mastery of poison use continues to reveal insights. Inside “Disciples of Shar,” I had an opportunity to test one poisoning effect that’s harder to prepare but yields impressive results.

Kiricletica, being a Ninja Spy, is best in fighting against the non-demonic, non-undead, non-living construct enemies, which are often never immune to poison or negative energy damage. The Shar worshippers in the cave lair were all human, with a few mephits, wolves and a special pet as exceptions.

In making this journey, I’ve all but fully dedicated Kiri towards the fights she will win as she approaches level 20. While she will flag herself in the Vale of Twilight for The Shroud raid to build up a good Green Steel weapon, I may have her skip adventures where the bulk of the enemies are poison/negative energy immune, extraplanar or non-humanoid. Kiri (in this life at least) may never see the plane of Shavarath. Adventures that involve the aberrations of Xoriat and the Dreaming Dark might also be limited in scope with her self-imposed soloing rules for the same reasons.

The central reasoning involves one attack. The easiest form of crowd control I find highly reliable isn’t the paralyzing effect of the Envenomed Blade. Rather, it’s the Water/Dark/Water finishing move, Freezing the Lifeblood.

Rather than low 17 Will save of paralysis from the Blades that many foes shake off after a few seconds, Freezing the Lifeblood is a Fortitude save roll (10+ Monk level+Wisdom modifier), making it far harder for enemies to escape with my 39 DC  (includes some Mystic Training of +2 to finisher DCs from Henshin Mystic, leaving them quite helpless for a full minute as they try and fail to escape. What I freeze stays frozen.

The key to getting this finisher working, as noted in past posts, is the Elemental ki attack, Unbalancing Strike. It counts as a Water ki attack as it hits and causes a Bluff effect that momentarily spins about and stops an enemy from attacking me, freeing me up to strike a Fists of Darkness, another Unbalancing Strike and the completed finisher that roots them in place and at my mercy.

I’ll often just freeze one enemy after another (starting with the healers or enemy mages) before working on others, systematically slowing the entire crowd to dispatch at my whim. WIS, rather than DEX, is my go-to stat now if I want to ensure that this attack holds even an Epic-level enemy.

Completing this move is the No Mercy enhancement. On helpless enemies, you get 10/20/30% more damage to put them away much faster.

I loved attacking the Disciples of Shar. Despite being orange-named, the Lifeblood freeze worked quite well on them, halting their magic attacks, making the cutting down of their guards far easier. The Disciples are still moaning from the Ninja Poison DoTs they’ve absorbed once surrendering. Their guards hardly stood a chance with the armor-piercing force of becoming paralyzed by my Envenomed Blades or my finisher. A few strikes to remove about 3/4 health while they’re helpless and the Ninja Poison does the rest, killing several of them while they’re frozen and I’ve already moved deeper into the cavern.

I readied for the end-fight. The boss, Dedryk Black, is guarded by one final Disciple and many more minions. I concentrate my attacks on the last Disciple as she’s more damaging in combination with Black’s many attempts to disintegrate and use Destruction spells. The last Disciple surrenders, the minions are done, and so I attack Black, dosing him with poison again and again, to shut him down.

I buff up and go to Sneak for the last fight as the Owlbear is released. I sneaked behind him when I began my attack. Strangely, it didn’t turn around to face me, so I was able to beat the creature relentlessly with Envenomed Blades. By my third round, the owlbear had at least 15 stacks of Ninja Poison.

And then I switched my Ninjutsu to Poison Exploit.

Poison Exploit purges an enemy of all stacks with extra damage, starting at 1d20 per stack. I put 1 Action Point to the Deadly Exploits enhancement, which magnifies the damage to 1d30 (two tiers remain for 1d50 damage per stack).

The result:

You hit Owlbear with 799 points of poison damage.

Oh, yeah. And that was with only the first rank trained. By three ranks, the damage may be at around 1,000 points lost to poison alone.

In a return to “Eyes of Stone” on Elite, Hesstess the medusa got a taste of her own poison, nailed with over 900 damage from Poison Exploit in one dramatic “Finish her!” move.

So, cumultative, magnified and bursted poison damage is the hallmark of the Ninja Spy. And we can still add in the classic negative energy pummeling for more pain.

The Attack Strategy

I’ve chewed on some names for a combo series I’ve found myself gravitating towards in recent adventures, names from the most esoteric (“Kiss of the Black Widow”) to obviously simple (“Poison Finisher”).

I decided for snark. Let’s nickname it as “The Socratic Method” for now (but see an update to this naming at the end of this post).

Those who have experienced the Method include:

The Method is administered with two or more fast uses of the Touch of Despair finishing move with the Ninjutsu style Poisoned Soul in play. For faster dosing, Envenomed Blades make cut after cut, adding more (untyped) weapon poison that’s magnified in damage from the Ninja Poison debuff, with a chance of adding additional stacks of  Ninja Poison from Sting of the Ninja on critical hits. Blowing Poisoned Darts every 30 seconds also add 1-4 more stacks.

The Socratic Method also includes the negative energy and fortification-damaging debuff of Touch of Despair, where a Touch of Death hit can then punish for 500 or more damage to go with the poisoning.

Here’s the Method in a nutshell.

  1. Attack with a primed Touch of Despair/Poisoned Soul finisher
  2. Add Poisoned Darts
  3. Normal attack for 10 seconds, adding a Touch of Death strike
  4. A second Touch of Despair/Poisoned Soul finisher
  5. Retreat, charge up Touch of Despair, repeating once or twice
  6. If desired, switch to Poison Exploit, complete Touch of Despair finisher to rip all poison out

The key is speed: Steps 1-4 are completed within 20-25 seconds. At this point, the enemy has a minimum of 250 damage (on a save from ToD) plus at least 11 stacks of Ninja Poison (10 from Poisoned Soul, 1 at minimum from the Darts). Ninja Poison is 1d4 per 3 seconds per stack for 15 seconds. Any stack is a 5% vulnerability debuff. Thus, the enemy has at least a 55% vulnerability to all poison damage and 25% vulnerability to negative energy and fortification.

One-third to one-half of an enemy’s hit points are often gone by the first wave since the actual numbers are stronger.

To make things interesting, taking advantage of both debuffs, I wield my Night’s Grasp shortsword (negative energy damage) with an Envenomed Blade, adding more negative energy damage. The purple damage numbers from both poison and negative energy’s havoc are quite impressive.

The Method’s advantage comes from the substantial damage you can put on a single enemy while avoiding becoming surrounded (if a mob is present) while minimizing your own damage.

Poison Exploit is slower and harder to set up. But against a high-HP red-named enemy where lingering too close for too long is dangerous, or when the enemy is low on HP but may get healed before your swords can kill him, the Poison Exploit with a simultaneous hit with Touch of Death could yield thousands of points of immediate, boss-ending damage at once. Remember that Ninja Poison is always slamming DoTs into an enemy even if you have only a few stacks applied. And the poison vulnerability of Ninja Poison amplifies any poison-typed damage from your weapons. Poison Exploit is simply a satisfying last bite that helps with really durable enemies.

The Lords of Dust/Servants of the Overlord

As noted in the past, Karas is dangerous at all difficulties with his potent sneak attack damage that bypasses your fortification. After dispatching his lackey, Gnomon, I charged up a Touch of Despair and struck. Twice, then three times.

I waltzed with Keras for a few moments after before he gave his “my death is only the beginning” final words and collapsed. By the time I was done with him, he had accumulated 80-123+ damage from poison DoTs every 3 seconds.

I dreaded the run on “Servants.” I knew death would be coming for me on swift wings if I didn’t successfully bypass the Drow hordes. I didn’t die but blew through half of my Heal scrolls while trying to kill the priestesses that kept trying to disintegrate me.

The end-fight itself is a mob-fest. As with some other fights, I had to make up tactics as I went. In this case, I chose to mix in as much stealth as I could, pulling the fights to the corners limited aggro. Jariliths are just nasty since they have a stealth-defeating sense, as do the spiders. I summoned an elemental to help at the start to draw attention as best it could.

When Ryo and her pet Herzou appeared, I concentrated on pulling and destroying the demon (having only Touch of Death as an effective weapon against this poison-immune behemoth) before applying the Method to Ryo’s face.

But there are always naysayers. So I’m adding a video to show how Kiri’s affectionate afflictions take down the haughty. I like killing Karas since he’s quite the Worthy Opponent.

Here’s a video of “Lords of Dust,” now completed on Heroic Elite. Just watch the amount of purple damage on Keras. Just watch. I didn’t need to use Poison Exploit on him since his HP dived so dramatically from the poisoning alone.

After I fatally poison something, I move on. There’s no need to linger,  even if they are still moving or talking. Gnomon and Keras were already dead.

My apologies for the video’s lack of sound. I made a goof in my sound settings so Bandicam lacked a sound channel. It’s a long video of 37 minutes so take breaks if you care to watch the details.

Update: Teacher Saekee enjoyed my post but wasn’t digging my bad punnage of my poisoning technique. Saekee took a little time out to make some suggestions, like “Viper,” which stuck well with me. So, I think I’ll rename this poisoning technique as the “Viper Style.”  A viper is a class of snakes, they inject venom and sound dangerous and mystical as Monks should be, but the name gets rid of the snark. Sorry, Socrates. “The Hemlock Maneuver” also gets the heave-ho.