The Return of the Thwacky-Stick

QuinAndGholaFanWith three characters done with their Thunderholme raid runs to build their Thunder-Forged weapons, I wanted to get another character dusted off and armed.

I was also getting slightly burned out from the successes of ranged and thrown fighting. I’d been playing Pynthetica, Szyncletica and Paracleta a bit too much lately, and I wanted to go melee again since Lynncletica is fully-actualized as a strong tank for many raids, and the Poison Master Ryncletica needs some gear tweaks before she goes into Thunderholme.

It was time to return to Quintessica, my Henshin Mystic.

A long time ago in a D&D-styled game not so far away, I made a Fighter that used quarterstaves. I called them “thwacky-sticks” because the Fighter essentially beat the living crap out of everything with impunity.

I never quite got that same mojo with the Henshin Mystic…until now.

Quintessica’s sat on the sidelines for a handful of reasons, although I enjoyed playing her.

  1. Attack speed (in the original enhancement pass) was woefully slower than other builds using quarterstaves.
  2. Overall defense was very poor, especially for a melee build. It was like playing a Barbarian with less than no armor. When a character builds up aggro as the Mystic does, they need to absorb much more damage or attack faster.
  3. Building up effective spellpower (in the original enhancement tree) to increase the ki-powered damage types was doable but problematic. You could have a staff that increased spellpower or melee damage, but not both.

Thankfully, it looks like these problems seem licked back with Update 33, so now, I’m catching up.

Offensive Changes

The new enhancement tree removed the use of spellpower to increase damage to ki-powered spell-like abilities. In its place, ki-powered abilities are magnified by Monk levels, Melee Power, or both. The tree gains remarkable base Melee Power bonuses.

These changes have really boosted the overall attack performance. For example, Cauldron of Flame is an extraordinarily potent kill-zone maker since the Melee Power and Monk level bonuses stack up to roast a wide area. It’s your own personal Firewall and every melee cannot help but come face-to-face with you–and burn.

If a boss is inside the zone with you, smack them with the All-Consuming Flame fire debuff and the damage goes way up. Bonus: You can move within the flame circle now; it lasts 30 seconds and has a 30 second cooldown. For places where I expect to get swarmed, I have this attack ready. And you also gain an attack and PRR boost while inside a Cauldron.

The addition of melee power in the core enhancements also increase general weapon damage. Hits do seem harder and more effective. It doesn’t hurt that Lighting the Candle, the Fire/Force damage weapon buff, also scales with that Melee Power.

For my build, I chose to add CleaveGreat Cleave, and Whirlwind Attack. This allows me to spin a staff almost continually. You can guess how all that spinning works with enemies trying to kill me while immersed in a Cauldron of Flame. Did I mention the extra fun with glancing blows?

The doublestrike-boosting Quick Strike also has a faster cooldown, allowing more chances for extra hits. I’m trying to add any Doublestrike bonuses here and there.

While I like some of the melee attacks of Legendary Dreadnought, it appears that Fury of the Wild is the better ED to use with its glancing-blow benefits to two-handed weapons such as quarterstaves, the burst damage of Adrenaline and Unbridled Fury, as well as Fury Made Placid (WIS +6, improves Monk DCs and AC). As I’ve said, Mystics and Barbarians have similar features.

As for other destinies, Primal Avatar doesn’t have much save STR and a few weapon buffs. Unyielding Sentinel may be helpful in quasi-tanking since I can maximize CON from the tree, but perhaps Divine Crusader’s similar treats with Consecration and weapon buffs may add up, as well as STR bonuses that I desperately need for more damage.

As melees go, Quintessica kills more efficiently now, thanks to these boosted powers and the wider reach of the staff to smack things. Wear-and-tear on quarterstaves is still nasty, and for the first time ever, I’m seeing permanent damage build up on a Thunder-Forged weapon. Upgrading it through the tiers doesn’t change this so I’ll bind it and use a repair oil kit from the DDO Store (or use the Stone of Change) shortly now that it’s bound to my character anyway.

As for attack speed, the last core enhancement pays off. Serenity adds 15% boost to attack speed, which seems to stack with Melee Alacrity boosts. I missed this in an early review of the new tree. I liked the idea of taking the epic feat Blazing Speed for permanent Haste, but realize weapon damage is better and will work in Epic Feats and Destiny Feats such as Overwhelming Critical and Harbinger of Chaos. Being a Monk, I already have plenty of speed for running or attack.

Dire Charge is also under consideration. This mass-stun pairs well with the cleaving to affect mass damage to several enemies, especially if I can get them all close in a Cauldron to burn everything for 6 seconds while getting a beat-down with a staff. Its effectiveness will vary in raids, where often trash is warded or red-named and unaffected by stunning.

The only enemies I can’t burn are devils and demons. I make some Force damage, sure. I’ll just have to be more creative in some raids.

Defensive Changes

The core enhancements improved the inadequate defenses a tiny bit. For every core enhancement, you gained +3 PRR for a maximum of +15. That’s not much, but it’s still appreciated. Staying in Mountain Stance at its maximum tier adds another 15 PRR. I just might reach 100 PRR with some Insightful bonuses and the best Monk armor, Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, by level 29.

Adding to this, I also followed Lynn’s design and trained Combat Expertise for more AC. The epic destiny Legendary Dreadnaught’s Improved Combat Expertise adds 20 PRR with the companion feat active as an epic character, which could be easily twisted.

Quinn currently sees 61 PRR, with more later. Like other older characters in my dojo, I didn’t train every destiny early on for them, so Quinn’s second life is holding at 25-27 while I work on completing EDs to unlock fate slots as well as qualify for ED feats such as Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting. Glancing-blow damage is great when you have multiple cleave effects.

I added something from the Ninja Spy tree to help: Shadow Veil. That 25% incorporeality combined with Dodge, Blur and AC seem to get Quinn through many scrapes, although she still bruises more than Lynncletica. Ideally, Quinn should be 3/4 as durable as Lynn and have around the same HP. I am not confident of Quinn’s effectiveness as a tank, even an off-tank. Lynn’s PRR stands around 150-161 PRR with nearly 300% fortification and has more HP than Quinn, who would get pummeled without more PRR and fortification. “Stick and move” is really Quinn’s mantra.

General Stance and Feat Changes

The general Monk stance updates are mixed blessings. Water Stance gives greater Dodge and a really improved cap. Fire Stance received the critical threat multiplier from Mountain Stance, which, I believe has improved Threat.

The most useful feat changes involved Ku-kando and the Shining Star finishing move. The DCs of both are no longer CHA-based but WIS-based. While I can’t use Ku-kando as a Mystic, I have weaponized Shining Star, sending enemies into dance frenzies with its spell-like ability of Otto’s Irresistible Dance. This finisher is rapidly easy to activate since it uses Earth-Wind-Fire moves in sequence that don’t lengthen the time to activate with cooldowns.

There’s also the mob-draining power of Every Light Casts a Shadow. In groups, I just warn others to have Death Ward equipped (just in case of a nagging bug) before I throw myself into a pile of enemies and neg-level the lot of them.

I had forgotten that Every Light is a dark-ki attack, which means I can also activate the ninja-grade finishers such as the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood or the mage-stopping Pain Touch. I have to time the attack just right, but after neg-leveling all near me, the odds of this helpless-inducing paralysis sticking go way higher.

Although the Mystic’s damage often add Force damage as well, she’s got to be careful in raids like “Defiler of the Just,” where everything is fire-immune, naturally, as devils and demons. Some dragons also will laugh at her powers but Thunder-Forged weapons are meant to hurt most of them. Amplifying the fire damage as a Mystic is just a bonus.

Weapons

Quinn has a boatload of staves–perhaps too many, and few of them useful in epic. The three I see most effective at level cap are the Thunder-Forged staff (its Adamantine durability is really preferable as well as its Fire/vulnerability damage), the Epic Light Unending (specialized undead/boss beater) as well as a Legendary Green Steel Mineral or Triple-Positive staff (once I build them).

With all the destinies to power up to gain fate points, I’ll have plenty of time to gather ingredients to build these staves to full power.

Gear

The best thing I’ve done is to custom craft items for more STR, CON and WIS while upgrading items for Melee Alacrity, Devotion, and AC bonuses. I have most AC covered except Natural Armor, which needs more of those pesky Purified Eberron Dragonshard Fragments for my crafter. Thankfully, some runs in “Devil Assault” can get me Tokens of the Twelve to exchange for a few: Crafting can get expensive as you add Insightful abilities.

I find the Guardian’s Cloak a staple for damage mitigation on all my characters. And if one enters “Temple of the Deathwyrm” enough, eventually the challenge of surviving the “Red Light-Green Light” room requires that I’ll need a Jeweled Cloak from Epic Gianthold as a backup against the instant-death effect.

To sum up, I’ve been far more cocky in running quests. Knowing the areas help me lure (or avoid) enemies so I can effect maximum damage to many enemies in an enclosed space. When there are a mix of mages and melee, the woo-woo of mass-neg leveling increases my chances of taking all down a bit faster. I wonder if the Mystic can win the melee-only/no-spells game of “kill ’em all faster.”

It’s been a long while since I’ve made a video, and I think I’ve promised one for the Mystic for longer. Lots of real-life work to do first, but sometime soon I’ll get one posted.

 

 

A Cautionary Tale of L-Shroud Part 4

Mericletica5Our most excellent multi-guild raid team took on a Legendary Shroud on Hard recently.

We should be old hats at this. But L-Shroud has a deceptive quality. Most of us have played Heroic-level Shroud many, many times before. So the familiar surroundings of L-Shroud, I suspect, causes some of us to let our guard down.

That’s a very bad thing to do in any part, but especially in Part 1, where the troglodytes that appear are all very dangerous. The sorcerers disintegrate. The fighters critically hit you with one strike, and so do the assassins. In this part, we break off two or three people to guard the portal beater’s backs. That’s a difficult job since the trash spawns at the portal as well as behind the team. And most of our player defenses on Legendary are much weaker.

For some reason this night, our DPS on portal beating was OK but you could tell it wasn’t our best. We complete Parts 1, 2 and 3 without much fuss.

It’s Part 4 that I worry about most now in Legendary Shroud.

The fight is exactly the same as in the Heroic version. Devils show up with a few friends to off you. After a time, Arraetrikos appears for the first time.

And this is where sub-par DPS will end your raid–and also why a solo Legendary run is nearly impossible.

Optimally, you kill Harry in one pass, else he returns with gnolls that heal him. In Legendary, the eight gnolls will heal Harry back from 1/4 HP to full health in less than 30 seconds. And the gnolls are hardy bastards; only one or two adventurers cannot destroy them fast enough. You need to devote the whole party to remove them fast, then switch over to Harry and peel back more HP on him.

But Harry is also being Harry, throwing fireballs and slapping adventurers hither and yon, killing a few. After a consecutive Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot volley to his face, Harry often turns his attention to me and spins meteors to my face, which will sting a bit, even with high Reflex saves, without some PRR.

That’s typically the point where your party is doomed, especially if your DPS was only adequate but not superior. One or two adventurers with only one or two death penalties may be OK, but once 5 or more in your party have suffered 3 or more deaths, their performance and HP are greatly reduced, increasing the chance for others to die and all but ensuring that Harry will triumph.

So, to those a little new to L-Shroud, here’s a tip or two for what its worth.

  1. Check your party DPS before entering. A full party is less important than a party that can rid the floor of portals and have the power to hurt Harry (or the gnolls) situationally. Not that I fault our raid party here (we love to have everyone play) but players under level 25 in the party probably hurt our chances that night.
  2. Ensure people have their portal-beaters and Harry beaters as well as any fortification bypassing. The simple portal-beater isn’t enough, in my opinion. You need to reduce the portal’s (and L-Harry’s) fortification to do similar damage to him as in Heroic. My Pynthetica the Zen Archer is designed to excel in both categories thanks to a strong weapon (a Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow that punches Force damage) but also because she can reach 85% fortification bypass thanks to Precision (25%), the bow’s armor-piercing (35%), the Grandmaster of Flowers ED Piercing Clarity (10%) and, by level 30, the Shadowdancer ED Grim Precision (15%). I swap in +5 Holy Arrows, kick on Ten Thousand Stars and go to town. It shouldn’t be a terrible option for most to switch to crafted Armor-Piercing gloves to help. And player abilities that also reduce fortification as a group (the Monk’s Jade Strike, or the Deepwood Stalker’s Mark of the Hunter) also help.
  3. Depending on your group, determine your Part 4 strategy. Normally the strategy is simple: Kill Harry, rapidly and in one go. But be ready with a Plan B: Slowing or killing the gnolls before turning your attention to Harry. Here, Paracleta’s superior Legendary-level paralysis helped a few times when Harry didn’t go down on the first try. She paralyzed two gnolls, leaving only six to destroy and buying time for the party. The trick here is that you MUST paralyze or otherwise freeze the gnolls before they emit their healing beam, as they materialize in the arena. That beam does not stop once started unless the gnoll is dead or the beam hasn’t started to begin with. Flesh-to-Stone, Otto’s Dancing or other effects could work if you get the save and if you’re very fast. If you have paralyzers in your party (and not Heroic level paralysis: You’re going to need to have a DC of 60+ to stand a chance), this can make the difference.
  4. Remind the party to go for maximum everything on the first attempt. Use boosts, the right weapon, throw spells carelessly. Definitely hit him with anything that lowers fortification for yourself or the party. Hold nothing back. It’s got to be “one and done” or the gnolls await you.

Got any other tips to share from your raid experience? Just drop them in the comments.

The Mighty Bow of Artemis

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Careful study of the targets on Thunder Peak prior to Misty unleashing her brand of hell.

 

I’m away from DDO during the season of Lent. This is a post I’ve prepared during my absence. This post may or may not contain sensitive subject matter unsuitable for some minds (specifically, religion).

Reader discretion advised.

~~~

I named Artemistika partially after the Greek goddess Artemis, a huntress, protector of woodlands and superior wielder of the bow. Quite appropriate choice for a Ranger or Druid.

There’s been an increased clamor on the DDO forums on how ranged damage/power is gimpy unless you’re a Monkcher. I guess it depends on what kind of damage you’re looking for.

While Melee Power as introduced to improve general damage for Epic players with swords and other handed weaponry, the Ranged Power element has not been implemented yet, as of Update 24, and won’t be till a later update, per Severlin, Executive Producer.

As noted before, I’m sticking to specific behavior–standing still–to generate the cumulative damage that Archer’s Focus does with DWS training, and having only one stat for damage and to-hit helps a great deal.

I love this class. Deepwood Stalkers really pack a punch if you do what they must do: Stand still and build their attack power. It’s critical to have powerful friends as well as a powerful bow. You cannot be a one-man army–but you might get by nicely as a three- or four-man version.

And may the gods favor my Ranger should Ranged Power come to the world and the decimation that update will add to what’s already there.

Misty’s completed her first high-level raids (“Fire on Thunder Peak” and “Caught in the Web”) and has trained two Primal Epic Destinies to qualify for the Doubleshot Epic Destiny feat at level 28, and took Blinding Speed at level 26. With Shadowdancer trained as well as Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar, I’ll try to somehow grind through Grandmaster of Flowers to gain access to Unyielding Sentinel and the much-desired Brace for Impact ability to maximum her fortification at 200% for the toughest Epic Elite quests.

With only 60 AC but over 155% fortification, Blurry and Ghostly or 25% Incorporeality in Shadow Form, Misty takes a surprisingly low amount of damage in the event she loses aggro control and her targets come to chase her.

Misty’s first Thunder Peak had a few serious hiccups. Our raid party had problems keeping the trash at bay long enough to sustain damage on the dragons. Eventually I was getting chased about the field by mobs that hadn’t anything else to chase due to numerous deaths. I took only one death myself after kiting myself too closely to a dragon’s fire breath. Once we did conquer both dragons, there were only three or so of us left alive and I found myself keeping all the trash at bay for a time before a resurrection solution worked to revive the party. All fun, all in all, and tested Misty’s emergency tactics (Improved Precise Shot, Displacement and the like).

One amazing thing, in the stealth department, are Misty’s Hide/Move Silently scores. Unbuffed, she’ll sit around 80. I’ve pushed it to 110. I could sneak Misty off the server with numbers like that. Deepwood Stalkers appear to be the clear winners in the DDO Hide and Seek game. I’ve got lots of documenting to do on the Stormreach Shadows guide for the Ranger.

I plan to train Misty’s destinies and stay as an Epic fighter for as long as it’s fun and until I get my Green Steel bows built. I’ve got one quest left for my Yugoloth potions, and a Pinion bow is still a goal. Enough “Thunder Peak” raids and I could get her Thunder-Forged bow a tier 2 upgrade. There are a few other trinkets and goals, such as 375 PDK favor for melding a Hide of the Goristro to my Woodsman’s Guile set.

In other news, the second effort to make the Zen Archer build work, after my first try wasn’t quite there, is now in progress. Stay tuned.

Fu, You, and the Bablith They Rode In On

fallinglynn1

Compiling that greatly-revised Monk guide, with all the thoughts and contributions from DDO forum members, has compelled me to rethink a bit on the diversity of Monk attacks.

The “Book of Syncletica” is for beginners that guides a player interested in a Monk through building a pure character. No multiclassing. That’s not because multiclassing is bad or anything, of course–it’s just that you won’t learn all you need to know about a Monk by leeching in cross-class skills and feats that might dilute a Monk’s innate abilities.

The forum conversations I’ve had to-date have made me realize how little I know of the effect of certain granted attacks and their selected, advanced versions. While I’ve toyed with Cleave and Great Cleave on one Monk, Improved Sunder has never been on my list. My argument has been that it takes up a feat slot I will need for anything to boost attacks (such as the Two-Weapon Fighting line), critical hits (Improved Critical), or hit points (Toughness).

But a Monk is more than their handwraps. More than any one attack or feat. Certainly a Monk should be more capable of multiple attacks on multiple enemies, despite game mechanic limitations.

In short, a martial arts fighter should be able to really deal attacks from as many directions as they have limbs, and then some.

quintessica

Part of this interest comes from Quintessica, the Grandmaster of all Elements (“Avatar”) Monk. She has Whirlwind Attack that adds to her normal and ki attacks, making her a whirling dervish of destruction.

The other interest appears anytime I’m reminded of “The Burly Brawl,” the fight between Neo and multiple spawning copies of Smith, rogue agent gone viral, in the film, The Matrix Reloaded. He knows kung-fu, indeed. (In the linked scene, Neo shows us how a quarterstaff should really be used.)

You can play this scenario yourself now in the recently modified “The Weapons Shipment,” where seemingly endless waves of devils come at you.

I just sent Lynncletica (the redhead, above), “The Little Mountain” that stood up alone against Garamol many times, into her second life. I am considering how much extra special attack types I can add to her build while still keeping her a Monk tanker, just to help better with removing mobs than punching each mob member one at a time.

So the attacks in consideration are:

  • Improved Sunder (requires Sunder, Power Attack): While Destruction/Improved Destruction do this on handwraps, why wait for the handwraps when you can crack armor at level 3?
  • Improved Trip (requires Combat Expertise): Start knocking down enemies yourself for a change.
  • Cleave (requires Power Attack): 90-degree arcing attack.
  • Great Cleave (requires Cleave): 180-degree arc attack and 2x damage than Cleave.
  • Whirlwind Attack (requires Spring Attack, which needs Dodge and Mobility, and Combat Expertise, which needs 13 INT): 360-degrees of badass and 4x weapon damage.

Of these, Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Trip and Whirlwind Attack would have a Monk fighting in a far more useful mode, as their arms and legs virtually charge in 90, 180 and 360 arcs. They wouldn’t apply more damage per second to any one foe, but would apply more damage per second to many more foes per second. That would be more martial-artsy.

I’m still considering a name for this experiment. Chuck Norris (peace and roundhouse kicks be upon him) doesn’t just kick. Neither should a Monk have one single-mode attack.

I’m sure others have experimented on this idea, so if you have, let me know. Lynncletica will be wearing more dark robes and goggles as she fights off Agents–er, I mean, devils during her training. Stay tuned.

Come to the Dark Side! (Or not)

After dusting off Ryncletica and exploring more of the nature of the “Dark” monk, I have this to say.

Ninja Spys are awesome.

I’ve played light monks all through my time on DDO. There were ups and downs, things I had to unlearn from my Neverwinter Nights days, and learning more about the exceptions to the game mechanics to which monks can bend, break or be liable.

Let’s go through my initial objections from long past and how they shape up now.

Myth: Dark monks can’t heal themselves as well as light monks.

Fact: Generally true, if you play style consists of terrible impulses to scream-and-leap at mobs. Otherwise, dark monks do fine in self-healing, with the right fighting style combined with enhancements, reaching level 11 and with a few offensive items.

  • Dark monks are natural ninjas. Light monks solo well because they can heal themselves of afflictions. Dark monks solo well because mobs don’t know they’re frickin’ there. To wit: I took Ryncletica (L14) into Haywire Foundry on Hard, alone (no hirelings). I sneaked past almost everything to get the two levers to the central golems. Pulled out my smiting handwraps and dispatched the golems (lots of Touch of Death on the red-named), then make a hasty exit. HP never dropped below 1/3, thanks to the information in the next point…
  • Dark monks heal wonderfully with vampiric weaponry and prudence. The Vampiric Stonedust Wraps were a no-brainer, but the Vampiric Fury Shortswords are a bonus win. The extra stat damage these do in combination with Improved Two Weapon Fighting and doublestrike will keep a monk’s HP/ki meter well-filled. If you find yourself a little peaked after a fight, use Wholeness of Body and fill yourself up from ki. Of course…
  • Ninjas don’t attack mobs. They attack targets. If you can hide and complete a quest without fighting a thing, you still get the XP. A Ninja Spy in One With Shadow/Sneak regenerates ki (Light monks have to wait to get Oremi’s Necklace for that trick) so there’s no reason to rush. In fact, once you can regenerate ki to 50 in your stable pool, you can Touch of Death targets routinely with an assassin’s precision.

If you don’t put points into Hide/Move Silently, you aren’t a ninja. You’re just a monk that likes to kill. Nothing wrong with that, but you lose the benefits of why the dark monk is deadlier than its light cousin.

Myth: Dark monks deal more DPS than their light cousin.

Fact: Depends on where they are, and what they must attack.

The dark monk’s available killing powers generally consist of elemental, force and negative energy. These come from the Earth/Air/Fire/Water strikes, Void Strike, and Touch of Death. (Both monk types get Quivering Palm for another instant-death strike.) The good news is that the dark monk is extremely effective on killing the living, non-aberration kind of foe. Drow. Ogres. Giants. Humans.

But stick a dark monk against these monsters and they will have a harder time because these foes offset a skill to kill or the ability to use a killing technique. These include:

  • Undead (dependent on Holy/Undead bane/disrupting weapons, while light monks are designed inherently to hurt the undead)
  • Aberrations (Enemies that live on negative energy are unlikely to be killed by it, so Touch of Death is a bad thing to try on them)
  • Anything with tremor sense (Dark monks can’t easily bypass spiders)
  • Anything that kills you faster than you can kill it. I know this sounds obvious, but one monk ability, to stun something, is less effective against the non-living and problematic with some planar creatures. That means that the light monks have it good with Tomb of Jade, which can encase any extraplanar, non-living and non-construct enemy and effectively stun it. Dark monks (even with vampiric ability) won’t have enough inherent positive energy attacking prowess against such foes. A prepared ninja (like Batman-prepared, with Holy burst weaponry)  is a live one at quest’s end.
  • Anything that loves to debuff or curse you early and often. (Dark monks must use clickys or potions to offset, which eventually run out, while light monks can remove such afflictions for as long as they can generate ki). Anyone that’s done the end fight with the hyper-cursing red-named bosses in A New Invasion and The Dreaming Dark final quest knows of what I speak.

To wrap up: Ryncletica is awesome to play. I’ve gained sizable appreciation for what dark monks can do. The most interesting challenge to come for her will be in fighting in the Shroud. Dark monks don’t get the damage reduction bypassing while unarmed, so she’s stuck with Metalline of Pure Good/Righteousness shortswords/kamas here until she can get a Tower of Despair ring, add Holy burst to one and wear metalline handwraps. (I do not hold out, ever, on getting Metalline/PG wraps in my lifetime).

Ryncletica has shown me clearly that a dark monk, rightly played, is a very soloable–and powerful–character.