DDO Zen Archer: The Completed Build

Mericletica5I’ve fully trained my Zen Archer build. Equipping this first one, Mericletica, will still take time on the quieter realm of the Cannith server, but all the central enhancements and initial destinies are done. I’ve still got the level 16 Pynthetica to complete on Ghallanda, but as a third-life it’s going so slow to level her.

The build’s a great alternative that delivers damage while providing all the benefits of complete Monk levels in both offense and defense.

This post is also a kind of apology and shout-out to Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build. I’ve been so ADHD or just plain overwhelmed in other matters that I’ve only begun a 2.0 ‘Cannon and so haven’t been able to talk much about it. The Zen Archer has been my obsession of late, and that time spent was worth it by adapting concepts from the ‘Cannon, as I’ll explain.

Shuricannon’s Slower Kin

I’ve talked extensively on the original Shuricannon. Firewall has since upgraded the build to deliver more fortification bypassing for more damage.

Much of the Zen Archer’s design is very similar to the Shuricannon, directly or in principle.

  • High miss-chance and general defenses (30% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment).
    • Firewall’s build adds in Lesser Displacement (25% Concealment) from an upgraded robe from “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I’m working on that myself. Unlike his Drow-based build, however, I go Elven, and have the Shadow Dragonmark for invisibility and Displacement. Saekee’s tip to use Harper Agent’s Magic of Patience enhancement allows me a 5-minute Displacement at level 28, reducing the need to get Green Steel clickies. The differing playstyle reduces the need for the number of Displacements.
    • All points in DEX give a high Reflex as well as damage as noted below. That Reflex save has only failed me twice, in an Epic Normal run (I think) in “Ghost of a Chance.” There’s a very nasty blade trap there that laughed at my 64-ish Reflex save and chopped me to bits. Same for the trap guarding the elemental engine of the prime enemy airship in “Precious Cargo.”
    • The Zen Archer’s role is the opposite of the ‘Cannon. The ‘Cannon is a capable “flying tank,” with its Monk speed, PRR and miss-chance. However, by Epic, it only uses ki for Ten Thousand Stars with Shadow Veil. The Zen Archer uses ki more often for GMoF attacks in that mode. When in other destinies, I try to twist Enlightenment for +1 passive ki. Else, I have only +2 passive ki when in Sneak and from Ultimate Ocean Stance. The Zen Archer is a sniper.
  • Hard Hitting DPS.
    • The Shuricannon specializes in higher DPS by leveraging Doubleshot-like advantages from both the Drow-granted Shuriken Expertise feat and the Ninja Spy’s core abilities, specifically Advanced Ninja Training.
    • The Zen Archer is an Elven build. Firewall took Drow for Shuriken Expertise and damage bonuses, and Ninja Spy for DEX-to-Damage with stars and other damage bonuses. Along similar lines of reason, I chose Elf to give immediate proficiency for longbows and, with training, DEX-to-Damage with bows. Both Zen Archer and Shuricannon then ramp up DEX to the maximum possible to deliver damage. As bows don’t gain further benefits in Heroic DPS beyond Sneak Attack damage and  the No Mercy enhancement from Ninja Spy, I adjusted my build to concentrate on the benefits of the Harper Agent enhancements to add Ranged Power and, later, stacking Deception to slow and Bluff enemies, where SA gains additional damage. By Epic, I’m adding more bow damage from the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, using A Dance of Flowers and Piercing Clarity on top of the destiny’s Ranged Power and Epic Power leveling bonuses.
    • Further, the Zen Archer’s longbows deliver greater base damage per hit. My Szyncletica’s best stars see 60-75 damage per hit, although there are a lot of other effects that certain shuriken gain for DPS per hit, especially Ninja Poison, which the Zen Archer cannot do. The Zen Archer’s base hits with a Thunder-Forged Longbow at level 28, in Grandmaster of Flowers, is 150+ once all competency bonuses are up. I tested the overall DPS on the planar gateway portal in Aussircaex’s Valley. While Szyncletica could take that portal down in about 45 seconds with Ten Thousand Stars, Mericletica with Manyshot blasted that thing to bits in under 30 seconds. I still have a TTS and normal bow test for her, but the base damage is clearly superior with a bow, even if the total sustained DPS works differently. I have Manyshot and TTS and better Doubleshot outside of this, versus Szyn. However, I didn’t let Szyn train two destinies to gain the Doubleshot feat to further improve her sustained attack. Meri’s fortification bypass is also superior to Szyncletica’s, which started off on Shiradi Champion to immediately benefit from Whirling Wrists and related damage enhancements. Shuricannon 2.0, with gear, can get higher bypassing.
    • Like the ‘Cannon, bonuses to critical hit threat and range ramp up the damage. But here, the Zen Archer sees critical hits in the 1500 or greater range since, with Earth Stance and Overwhelming Critical, I get a x5 effective multiplier (the ‘Cannon does this too after a fashion and with another destiny). I never saw such critical hit numbers with my ‘Cannon, but again, DPS is subjective. I do see similar take-down speed with the Zen Archer as the ‘Cannon. However, both builds are played very differently. The ‘Cannon is a berserking, running attacker. The Zen Archer is a calm, near-motionless, balanced sniper. As such, the ‘Cannon clears more enemies per minute, but the Zen Archer can zap down a single tougher enemy as fast yet not endanger itself. I clear rooms and dungeons very well. I just do so one enemy at a time as fast as possible.

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  • Defensive advantages from full Monk training.
    • The Shuricannon has stronger innate magic protection from the start as Drow gain Spell Resistance that grows as they do. The Monk’s Diamond Soul feat adds this in at level 13 for the Zen Archer. The two features are identical and, thus, don’t stack on the Shuricannon. Grandmaster of Flowers and an airship buff add a little more stacking bonus.
    • I managed to work in the highest fortification I have ever made on a character with the Zen Archer: 205%. This comes from a 25% Exceptional Fortification loot-gen helm, 40% from the Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact, 125% Fortified gloves, and guild ship bonuses that filled in the rest. This should ensure that the Zen Archer can stand and fire without as much concern against any melee enemies that get too close, except Champions, the bane of many a build, which often can ignore one or more of the Zen Archer’s passive defenses.
    • The Zen Archer is still a ninja at heart and has very strong Hide/Move Silently skills to go where it wants without detection. Having Abundant Step is key here–and having sufficient ki to use it repeatedly without compromising my ki store.
    • The Zen Archer in Grandmaster of Flowers mode regenerates +4 ki at maximum, gaining a maximum 240 ki held fully charged. I can use many offensive and defensive abilities without dangerously depleting my ki pool in extended fights, and regenerate ki very rapidly between each battle. It also allows the use of shrines to recharge my spell points without worrying about ki loss.
    • I still find the Way of the Sun Soul set helpful for the Zen defense. To go with the miss-chances, Reflex saves, Improved Evasion, high fortification and Spell Resistance comes the 25% damage-reducing Radiant Forcefield effect that often procs while in Earth Stance while I deliver maximum critical hit damage from that stance’s benefits to weapon.
    • The only enemies that make the Zen Archer move are Champions. They threaten one or more of my defenses at all times. But keeping GMoF as the central destiny grants me emergency damage through the knockdown effect of Drifting Lotus, where I can then Pin that enemy and eliminate it.
  • Gear.
    • Both Zen Archer and ‘Cannon use similar gear, outside of the weapons, of course. In my case, as I don’t run as many specific quests as Firewall is able to do to get the best of the best, I’m still adding in effects that both builds enjoy to squeeze that last bit of DPS from every shot. In fact, youshould be able to use the same gear for thisbuild as the ‘Cannon if you’re able to obtain it. Here’s what I have for now.
      • Fortification bypass.
        • Shuricannon 2.0 revels in this, and the Zen Archer took more than a few pointers here. It’s one reason why I’ve found that the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny provides the best overall offensive and defensive balance for this build.
        • You can gain more DPS from Shiradi Champion and more burst DPS from Fury of the Wild, but GMoF’s Piercing Clarity adds 10% additional fortification bypassing to go with the 25% of Precision feat for 35%, and a 5% guild buff for 50% currently. I’ve trained up a bit of Shadowdancer and used Grim Precision and its 15% bypass bonus.
        • If I train up more destinies for more fate points, I could upgrade a Twist of Fate slot for tier 3 to use that as well for 65% with Grim Precision. Even Heroic level Black Dragonscale Robes will add 10% Armor-Piercing for 75%. I’m making routing Heroic Elite runs into Gianthold Tor, quickly gathering 3 White and Black scales for the next lives and using that armor. On Cannith, I don’t see a lot of opportunities to build Flawless Black Dragonscale Robes for 15% Armor-Piercing, but hope springs eternal with an LFM.
      • Two key rings, the Ring of Shadows and Seal of House Avithoul, provide Hide/Move Silently defenses, Blurry, 10% standing Incorporeality (saving ki to reduce use of Ninja Spy’s Shadow Veil) with Improved Deception (stacks with the Harper Agent enhancement) and Sneak Attack bonuses. This slows charging enemies but also greatly slows attacks by even Red Named enemies when Manyshot is running. The continuous high-speed hits tend to permanently turn away bosses and slow their attacks, making take-down faster.
      • Shadowdancer’s permanent Shadow Form will save some ki later here.
      • Saekee and I learned during an EE run into “The Claw of Vulkoor” that Deception effects per player tend to “lock up” bosses to the point where they can’t make attacks or defense. They’re in a state of permanent Bluff while the DPS holds. Saekee had at least one Deception effect and I have two.
      • Defensively, the Way of the Sun Soul set also helps in Earth Stance with PRR bonuses, including a boost from Standing with Stone. I do want to add a Sheltering augment somewhere to fortify my total soak damage reduction to around 45-60 PRR.
      • I have unlocked a Spider-Spun Caparison outfit with Improved Dexterity +3 for more HP. Replacing the Boots of the Woodsman I’ve worn are a pair of Surefooted Boots. This grants the Mobility feat for 2% more Dodge but also has a Green augment slot where a Topaz of Power +150 sits to give more spell points for Rejuvenation Cocoon.
      • Replaced my Nightforge Gorget with a temporary necklace with Wisdom +8 and a Yellow augment slot used with a Deathblock gem. I hope to find the Necklace of Mystic Ediolons for inherent Deathblock, better Improved DEX and CON but also (once upgraded) Augment Summoning for +4 to my summoned and hireling ability scores, which would make them more helpful in Epic Elite, especially running Primal Avatar for additional boosts.
      • The Tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow with a Good augment gem is the primary weapon, punching anything it targets, especially dragons. If I find any groups running the Thunder Peak raid enough, further upgrades of the weapon would be nice. I’m getting well-acquainted with “Temple of Elemental Evil” enough to start hunting for the Epic Sapphire Sting, the only other bow that makes the TF bow seem weak.
      • I’ve completed my Shroud flagging. I have one first Green Steel desire: A triple-positive bow for handling undead bosses. I’m confident that Mericletica might do something only Szyncletica has managed: Completing the Shroud alone. The need is less in bragging rights than the low population on Cannith.
  • Destinies and Epic Training
    • I trained more destinies on this character than I ever had on any character to date. I started with GMoF, bypassed Legendary Dreadnought for expediency to get Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar trained to qualify for level 28 Epic Destiny feats, and trained Shadowdancer to gain more fate points to upgrade slot 1 to tier 2. I plan to train Legendary Dreadnought, Fury of the Wild and Shadowdancer to gain three more fate points to get tier 3 unlocked. I know Firewall loves Divine Crusader, so I’ll be tooling through Unyielding Sentinel for more fate points and to unlock that destiny too.
    • While in Grandmaster of Flowers, I have Pin from Shiradi in an upgraded tier 2 Twist slot and Rejuvenation Cocoon from Primal Avatar in the second and third Twist slots. This allows three important GMoF abilities to stay up without Twisting (Piercing Clarity, A Dance of Flowers for 1.5W damage increase, with Enlightenment and the innate abilities Ubiquity for Tumbling through enemies and Balance in All Things keeping ki regeneration at its maximum while also giving knockdown immunity). GMoF’s offensive powers, also help in defense and damage, especially Drifting Lotus, and it allows me to have the room-obliterating Everything is Nothing available on boss fights.
    • Shiradi Champion works very well at the expense of defense and ki regeneration. Pin and Otto’s Whistler are impressive attack modes that make this destiny great in smaller fight scenarios.
    • Primal Avatar is a great defensive destiny that boosts my character’s outward defenses, specifically with hirelings. The aggro-magnet Elder Dryad allows me to pummel things from afar longer. Of course, Rejuvenation Cocoon is a requirement for most characters and is easy to train. The Zen Archer tries to avoid being too dependent on it as the ultimate balance between DPS and defense is the goal of the build. If the Zen Archer is taking so much damage that Cocoon has to be used all the time, the build’s not doing what it should.
    • The Blinding Speed Epic feat gives permanent Haste for 22% Ranged Alacrity. The level 28 Epic Destiny feat Doubleshot adds 10% Doubleshot for  a total of 15% with Elven and guild ship bonuses.
    • Off-destiny, this build still does good damage, but does enjoy the Ranged Power bonuses from each destiny. That said, Fury of the Wild’s intentionally nerfed +1 Ranged Power (balancing out the monkchers that use that) is less attractive than GMoF and Shiradi or Shadowdancer.

The Final Build

I’ll be pasting the final build later on my forum thread for anyone to import into Character Builder Lite, and update the first post with the final information.

I have a video to share of this build tackling a battle to give an idea of its power. The Zen Archer isn’t bad at all in Epic Elite, but you do have to pick battles with care as you would any character.

Comments welcome. Be sure to click the “CC” for captioning that explains the tactics as the video goes along.

Zen Grandmaster

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

Sure, it was from the Training Dummy. But there it is.

The race of the Zen Archers and the testing of the build was never a fair contest. Mericletica on Cannith was a first-lifer with XP nearly oozing out of every pore just for showing up somewhere, while three-lifer Pynthetica has to scrap for play time.

Pyn wins in the gear department hands down, however, having accumulated much in her lifetimes, including a Shimmering Arrowhead and all the big bows, including a Raider’s Box-bestowed Pinion bow that’s dying to be used.

But Mericletica, now level 23, is first to test the viability of the Epic Zen Archer first. As a first-life Monk, she began in the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny.

As part of the build testing, I’m writing a series of posts on Epic Destinies as they relate to the Zen Archer, with GMoF first.

Weaponized Ki, Improved Damage

While GMoF helps unarmed Monks best, it also offers general bonuses that apply to armed Monks. Mericletica’s ki is boosted. Her weapon damage is improved. A few Destiny Points to DEX aids in damage and to-hit. She bypasses more fortification.

Update 25 grants +3 Ranged/Melee power per each innate ability. That’s a great start to a build that will already had  15 Ranged Power on entering Epic play with her Harper Agent training. And every Epic character gains +3 Epic Power per level. At present, Mericletica has around 27 Ranged Power.

  • Inner Focus (innate ability 1): Additional ki and stacking spell resistance to avoid attacks. Of course, this is also a rechargeable non-Meditation emergency ki surge button, helpful in prolonged attacks where I’m spamming Ten Thousand Stars and other ki attacks as often as I’m able.
  • Perfect Balance: More to Dodge to maximize it to 30%.
  • Lily Petal: The first of the magical ki attack balls. I plan to heavily leverage these and related attacks because of the Zen Archer’s maximized regenerative ki effects. As they give Magic type damage, most enemies can’t resist it and take hundreds of points of damage. It’ll be especially helpful against Champions, the bane of the Zen Archer, as their special buffs often compromise at least one of the build’s circles of defense.
  • Enlightenment: More passive ki regeneration and ki as a whole to empower attacks. I’m using this ability to make adjustments to enhancement AP, as I’ll note in a moment.
  • A Dance of Flowers: Increases the weapon damage modifier for her bows.
  • Centered Mind (innate ability 2): The Slippery Mind feat to ward off enchantment attacks such as Otto’s dancing spells, buying the character time to escape and attack.
  • Serenity: More stacking spell resistance needed against things such as the Drow spellcasters.
  • Wholeness of Spirit (innate ability 3): Periodic cleansing button of bad status effects and debuffs.
  • Orchid Blossom: Lily Petal’s mass strike upgrade. Helpful against mobs.
  • Walking with Waves: While in Ocean Stance, an additional 3% Dodge if I require it by this time.
  • Perfection of Body: Boosts to Fortitude saves, where this build is weakest.
  • The Abiding Path (innate ability 4): Immunity to Slippery Surfaces. I do not fear and will not move away from the spellcasters with Sleet Storm.
  • Standing with Stone: Up to +15 PRR and 15 HP when in Earth Stance. I’m often in this Monk stance for improvements to the critical threat range of my bows and damage mitigation, now that other abilities of the destiny can compensate for the loss of saving throws and Dodge when otherwise using Ocean Stance. Critical hit damage goes up 30% easily when I’m running in this mode.
  • Piercing Clarity: Effective True Seeing against concealment effects. Most importantly, additional fortification bypass of 10% to go with Precision (25%) and other bypass training I can utilize.
  • Ubiquity (innate ability 5): Tumbling through enemies as if they were incorporeal. Helpful to shift position while not interrupting Archer’s Focus, if it works.
  • Drifting Lotus: My answer to avoiding Improved Precise Shot. Combined with the other ki attacks, I’ll be able to quickly knockdown and damage enemies, often using this feature to escape with stealth if a fight becomes overwhelming.
  • Dancing with Flames: Like A Dance of Flowers, I hoped this additional ability would also boost the weapon dice modifier. However, it fails to work with bows, only unarmed and perhaps melee weapons. It’s skipped.
  • Perfection of Soul: Additional Reflex saves when in the heat of battle. Right now, I’m less in need of it.
  • Balance in All Things (innate ability 6): Immunity to most knockdowns and an additional +1 to passive ki regeneration. For the Zen Archer, that means up to a total of +5 possible passive ki regeneration (Stealthy from Ninja Spy, Contemplation from Henshin Mystic (now disabled), Ultimate Ocean Stance, Enlightenment and this innate ability). If HP drops to less than 50%, then Way of the Tenacious Badger adds +1 for a rapid +5/+6 passive regeneration, perfect for spamming Lily Petal and other alternative attacks.
  • A Scattering of Petals: A Blinding debuff for escapes. A convenient alternative to the Ninja Spy’s Flash Bang (which isn’t trained). I’d rather add another DEX point.
  • Everything is Nothing: One of the best Epic Moments out there that instantly kills almost everything in a wide range. Since this Epic character will be spamming ki attacks often, it should be easy to have this charged for tactical use in wide areas where many enemies are anticipated, sniping and luring as many enemies into “Death Blossom” range. The Zen Archer will never lack in sufficient ki for this or any other ki strike.

Adjustments to Enhancements

With more passive ki regeneration from this destiny, it’s wasn’t a bad idea to retool my Monk enhancements for more weapon damage in Epic play. Here’s the summary.

  1. I reset the Henshin Mystic tree, removing training for Contemplation. This reduces passive ki regeneration by 1 but this is made up with the Enlightenment ability in GMoF, even as a Twisted ability, as well as the last innate ability while in GMoF. This freed up 8 AP and leaves the tree dormant.
  2. Completed 34 points of Harper Agent training. The last two cores weren’t helpful to damage, and those 10 AP used to qualify for it don’t help outside of DEX training. So any training at level 30 stopped after Harper Enchantment of Deception. I did consider Saekee’s great idea to extend my Elven Displacement duration with Magic of Patience, adding 2 points there. My Elven Displacement from my Shadow Dragonmark now lasts a hardy 4 minutes instead of 1 minute 30 seconds, thanks to that Extend Magic effect.
  3. Trained Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack and No Mercy enhancements using the 12 to 14 freed AP. This additional damage will come in handy when Shiradi Champion training offers Nerve Venom, which makes enemies helpless. Significant damage from Sneak Attacks now apply as Improved Deception effects kick in.

Epic Gear

Mericletica5

Mericletica is a first-life character on a server with a lower player population. I’ll have to make due from the charity of others for gear when raids are run less often.

Grabbed a low-hanging fruit: A Spider-Spun Caparison for a paltry amount of Astral Shards for +3 Insightful DEX later. I gathered plenty of Eveningstar Commendations for the Way of the Sun Soul set and its stance-based buffs.

The Radiant Forcefield-like buff that reduces damage by 25% for 10 seconds when a vorpal-calculated hit is confirmed in Earth Stance adds to the Zen damage reduction scheme, as does the PRR and AC boosts of Earth Stance. Ocean Stance kicks on a Fire Shield/Cold buff. I don’t know if the Wind Stance’s buff of 6% Doublestrike includes Doubleshot as well (I’m sure I tested this on Szyncletica and it does not).

With level 23 done, I decided to downshift to farm some items.

To use the Sun Soul set, my trusty level 3 Bracers of Wind must go, which meant a new Blurry item to replace it. I found a reasonably-priced epic Ring of Shadows on the Shard Exchange and put it on immediately at level 23. This ring has it all for the stealthy, defensive ninja. Great Hide/Move Silently and at least 10% Incorporeal protection with its Ghostly at all times to go with the Blurry, saving me a little ki in light skirmishes where I needn’t kick on Shadow Veil.

On the other hand is a gift from Saekee: A Seal of House Avithoul, perfect for the Epic adjustments for additional Sneak Attack damage, DEX +7 and with Improved Deception that stacks with my Harper based version for frequent Bluff-spins against charging attackers, slowing them down.

STR was a serious problem for me. My collection of bows are heavy, and even as I pared them down, I had to wear some Ogre Power boots and not something more useful. Completing most of the Heroic Elite runs possible in Gianthold gained me sufficient ancient relics to trade for a Diamond of Strength +5 that I added to the slot on the Ring of Shadows.

Scored a non-epic Roadwatch Bow in the latter days of leveling to 20, which was surprisingly effectively against the plant and fey in the “Druid’s Deep” series. I will be buying an Epic version of this thing, as well as completing more Eveningstar challenges to get different Cormyrian bows and their often harsh Improved Paralyzing, Wounding and other detrimental effects.

Saekee was happy to venture out to make me a Tier 0 Thunder-Forged Longbow. I wasn’t doing badly at all beforehand with my non-epic Thornlord for horrific 300 to 400 crits while in Earth Stance with sustained damage of 100 per hit, elevating by 20-45 with a bluffing Improved Diversion spin and the Sneak Attack bonus.

On breaking out of the Sun Soul set at higher levels for a raid configuration, the Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe would add more fortification bypass. I’ll be farming Heroic Tor to gather their lesser version for a robe usable for life #2 or for Epic play when I need to really punch through something.

So here’s the gear summary, thus far, for the TL;DR crowd.

  • Helm: Deadly Helm of Accuracy (both +6 bonuses). This is a very useful placeholder until I find something better. The Epic choices are weird here. A Flawless Helm of the Black Dragon would pair well enough with its counterpart robe. The Epic Wheloon chain reward helms aren’t bad, but I think, for now, that level 27 Guardian’s Helmet with 120% fortification and Hammerblock isn’t looking too bad.
  • Necklace: Nightforge Gorget with Deathblock gem. This is always a hard thing to part with until I can stabilize my Epic gear so I have Deathblock and higher Fortification elsewhere. Some Fortified 125% Gloves with a yellow and green slot would be ideal as I could stick a PRR gem in with the Deathblock gem. It’s too easy in places to get a Death Ward buff dispelled, so I never leave the airship without this. I’d rather have a Dodge 8% or better item here, if not elsewhere.
  • Trinket: Mummified Bat. Of all the gear I have, trinkets are in the worst shape. Ideally, a Planar Focus item with Insightful DEX +3 would be fine, but a Shimmering Arrowhead might be the better thing for slowing anything with Crippling. Combined with Improved Deception, this could be a great thing.
  • Cloak: A Drow Piwafwi. The basic Hide/Move Silently allows easy stealth movement but also has that funny Invisibility Guard (like the Drow Slavers, it gives you effective Improved Invisibility for a bit and so slows down aggro) but also Improved Sneak Attack +5 to boost weapon damage. I need to add something better since only the SA effect is working here…
  • Belt: Belt of the Sun Soul. The Concentration +15, Insightful WIS +2 and CON +7 is very welcome.
  • Ring #2: A Seal of House Avithoul. DEX +7. Excellent for boosting Sneak Attack damage and increases the Improved Deception effect since I also have this working on Harper Enchantment. Enemies, even red-names, spin quite a bit, allowing for a lot of extra damage.
  • Gloves: Fortified 105% of Speed VI. This is likely the place to add in greater Epic fortification or DEX or Dodge later. I’d love to find Speed as well until I reach level 27 and get the Blinding Speed feat to be permanently Hasted and get 15% ranged speed. I’m not sure what named item, aside from the Purple Dragon Gauntlets for healing amplification) would fit here. DEX +10 with Dodge 10%/Protection/Natural Armor 1+0 are possible to find by level 28.
  • Boots: Boots of the Woodsman. After many trades of other commendations, these provide Insightful DEX +2 for more damage and some more movement speed. There are many, many better Epic boots to find later.
  • Ring #1: Ring of Shadows, level 23. Blurry, Ghostly, a STR +5 gem, and Hide/Move Silently +17. I shouldn’t need the Drow Piwafwi with this ring, further emphasizing my need to dump that cloak.
  • Bracers: Bracers of the Sun Soul. Boosts not only WIS but adds Insight bonuses to saves, AC and CON.
  • Armor: Vestments of the Sun Soul. This completes the Way of the Sun Soul effects that reduce damage or provide emergency effects such as Restoration. Once I’m cocky enough for chasing 375 PDK favor, I’ll unlock the Spider-Spun Caparison.
  • Goggles: Lenses of the Woodsman. Gives me Seeker +6, an attack bonus and True Seeing, allowing me (in combination with the Sun Soul set) to retire my Teraza’s Perfect Sight, which is why my Helm slot has just a loot-gen item. I was trying originally for some Drow Smoke Goggles but, after three runs through the first Darkening quests and besting “The Battle of Eveningstar” thrice, the drop just wasn’t there. I did score two pairs of Grave Wrappings, one to keep and another to hand over to Gwynncletica, my young Shintao for her later glory. Perhaps Shadowsight would be good here as an alternative later.

Gameplay

Currently, Mericletica blasts things at sustained 100-120 damage with around 20-40 Sneak Attack damage, with 400-500 critical hits once her Archer’s Focus is full.

At DEX 44 or so, Mericletica is a surprisingly hard-hitting powerhouse. I’m starting my Elite run into the Devil Battlefield to complete the Shavarath quests there for Yugoloth Favor Potions. Combined with DDO Elixirs and the special House Deneith potions, I’ll get +6 more to DEX on-hand for crunch fights. It looks like, with items and destinies, Meri should ultimately have around 48-52 DEX base by end-game with +6 in reserve. I need to visit Szyncletica the star-thrower to check how she reached a 60 after two lives and emulate that.

Right now, Dodge bonus isn’t where I want it to be. It’s 21% if I’m in Ocean Stance, but it can reach 30%. I need to retool what I have, starting with that cloak slot. An Adamantine Cloak of the Wolf, with Dodge 8% and Improved Seeker +5 might do the trick. If I can add points to Walking with Waves for 3% more while in Ocean Stance without messing up my Epic Moment, that’s one help.

While I prefer the strong, generally aggressive hireling duo of Albus, the level 20 Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther to take aggro-point, Mericletica wasn’t doing too badly on her own in the wilds of the Devil Battlefield. She took out her first pit fiend with some clever jumping atop the Tower of Despair’s outer gate, pelting the thing from above as it received punches from the Warforged Titan below.

The Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, overall, boosts weapon damage, Dodge and Dexterity, while adding in the ranged ki magic balls as a “finish him!” move with a low HP enemy. It’s actually turning out as a great ranged destiny because it reinforces the zen of this build, leveraging ki and the natural monastic abilities for strong defense and damage. Only Shiradi Champion will be better in general damage and versatility with the bow, but at a defense disadvantage if I read it right.

I’m going to race through Legendary Dreadnought to get another Twist slot unlocked and upgraded, to reach Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar as soon as possible.

There’s still a lot of items I can farm as well. I see many runs into “The Weapons Shipment” for that Shimmering Arrowhead Hopefully I can bring Saekee or others along to increase my farming odds. I owe him a lot.

I foresee an Epic XP leveling freeze at level 27 to avoid wasting my last Epic Destiny feat slot. While training two Primal destinies to qualify, I’ll take Overwhelming Critical as an Epic Feat at 24, changing the bow critical multiplier from x3 to x4, I think. I’ll take Toughness as the first Epic Destiny feat at level 26, Blinding Speed at level 27, continuing destiny training until I can take Doubleshot (10% added, 15% total) as the last Epic Destiny feat.

I hope to have a video of this build in fully-trained GMoF, as well as Shiradi and Shadowdancer in the coming weeks.

The Best Defense

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*

Ho! Ha ha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust! *sproing*

A build from forum user ForgettableNPC recently caught my eye.

One day he mused about a Monk with the maximum Dodge bonus possible. He admittedly degenerated his idea to Acrobat build with a touch of Monk and Fighter.

But I wanted to take up his cause, since, being me, I’m all about maximizing the central class traits. What is the maximum Dodge that a Monk can attain without multiclassing? And, like war, what is it good for?

Tears to Thousands of Eyes

Dodge bonus, to review for any newbies, is part of a character’s miss-chance defenses, including Concealment (that’s often Blur), Incorporeality (that’s “Ghostly”) and Evasion (reflex-based). These passive defenses simply reduce the chance of damage by a certain type of attack. In the case of Dodge bonus, the higher your percentage, the less chance that physical attacks (melee or ranged) from enemies will hit you.

Dodge doesn’t help against traps or magic attacks–that’s for Evasion and Improved Evasion, a feat reserved for those who wear light- or no armor.

A character’s Dodge bonus are adjusted by a few factors.

  • What are you wearing? (heavy breathing)
    • Classes such as Rogues and Rangers, who can wear light armor, are designed to allow a higher Dodge bonus maximum, or “cap,” over classes that wear medium or heavy armor. The denser your armor, the less your maximum dexterity bonus, which not only limits how much AC bonus you gain from your DEX modifier, but also your maximum Dodge cap.
  • Who are you? (Ooh-ooh, ooh -ooh)
    • Without any armor, any character has a natural 25% maximum cap–but this can be increased depending on the character’s race, class, enhancements and some items. Halflings gain natural enhancements that increase their Dodge cap. Classes can also gain natural, stacking Dodge bonuses that can override the default cap. Monks gain up to 6% Dodge that stacks with items or enhancements, such as Ocean Stance.
  • Are you a Swashbuckler, Kensei, Ninja Spy, Shintao or Tempest Ranger?
    • Each of these class tree’s enhancements have training that can raise your natural Dodge cap. Note that the Ninja Spy and Kensei enhancements are identical and do not stack, nor do they stack with the Tempest counterpart.
  • Are you in a level 43 or higher guild?
    • The Fencing Master guild amenity buff adds 2% to your Dodge cap.

Make Him Disabled, Bitter and Mean

It’s bad enough, as a Monk, that your defenses aren’t naturally stronger than a Fighter. But, unlike a Fighter, some tranquil contemplation while haggling with your dojo’s quartermaster and trainer might find you items and techniques to support your natural Dodge bonus.

Let’s use a Halfling Ninja Spy here in my example. Unlike the Shintao, ninjas don’t need to train two enhancements to gain a Dodge bonus. Shintao’s Meditation of War first debuffs your cap before the tree’s last core ability offsets this, giving you no penalty, but also leaves you no benefit.

(I know a Drow could have 1% Dodge better than the Halfling. I learned his after all these calculations were made below. So keep that in mind but, also note the cap issue ahead.)

We’ll start with training our shadowy kunoichi with enhancements and granted feats that she can use towards Dodge once she reached level 20. After each item. I show the Dodge and cap as it changes.

Default Monk: 6% Dodge (through Flurry of Blows granted feat), 25% Dodge cap

  • Nimble Reaction (Tier 2 Halfling enhancement): 3% to Dodge cap.
    • Dodge cap: 28%
  • Flurry of Blows (class feat): All Monks gain 6% untyped Dodge bonus by level 20.
    • Dodge: 6%, Cap 28%
  • Improved Dodge (Tier 3 Halfling enhancement): 3% Dodge.
    • Dodge: 9%, Cap: 28%
  • Ultimate Ocean Stance (granted feat, level 18): You gain a stacking 4% Dodge bonus.
    • Dodge 13%, Cap 28%
  • Agility (tier 2 Ninja Spy):  3% Dodge cap.
    • Dodge 13%,  31% Cap.
  • Acrobatic (Tier 1 Ninja Spy): 3% Dodge.
    • Dodge 16%, 31% Cap.

I’m omitting Halfling Agility as this is a temporary boost. We’ll just concern ourselves with boosts that can be sustained.

That’s not a bad number at all: 16% standing Dodge with training alone as a completely naked Halfling*** and no selected feats yet.

Let’s add the only feats that give more standing Dodge.

  • Dodge (feat): 3%
    • Base: 19%
  • Mobility: 2%
    • Base: 21%
  • Spring Attack: 2%
    • Base: 23%

Still naked, that’s a base 23% Dodge. Hardly impossible or impractical number of trainable feats that still leave a player to choose combat related feats such as Two Weapon Fighting and Improved Critical.

***The author of this blog or its agents are not responsible for any
costs for mental counseling, loss of income, time you'll never get
back or images seen that can't be unseen as a result of this
description.

 

Now let’s put some clothing on that perky, cold little lass.

(I said lass.)

Friend Only to the Undertaker

Virtually all gear that provides extra Dodge are enhancement bonuses. So, only the highest bonus from one of your items will apply to your general bonus.

By level 20, the highest loot-generated Dodge item you can wield has a 6% enhancement bonus. There are exceptions, such as the level 15 Skirmisher’s Locket (8%) or the venerable Icy Raiment (also 8%). I’ll stick with the commonly available loot-generated item as, as you’ll see, finding enough Dodge bonus itself isn’t the real problem.

So your final total for this Heroic Halfling is a base of 29% Dodge with a 31% cap. That fits exactly what I’ve seen in past and current lives with my ninjas Ryncletica, Kiricletica and Szyncletica. For level 20, that’s extremely impressive Dodge.

And now, let’s see if any Epic Destiny or gear could make this better.

Good God, Say it Again!

The two natural destinies immediately available to a first-life ninja are Grandmaster of Flowers and Shadowdancer. Let’s calculate both, and then factor in an opened Twist of Fate slot so that any Twistable ability from one destiny could benefit an active destiny, if any exist.

Grandmaster of Flowers:

  • Perfect Balance (tier 1): 3%
  • Walking with Waves (tier 3, only while in Ocean Stance): 3%

I’m ignoring the temporary 25% 6-second temporary bonus of the tier 6 ability, A Scattering of Petals for purposes of standing Dodge calculations and also because it can’t be Twisted.

So a Grandmaster of Flowers ninja has a potential base of 35%. But their cap remains fixed at 31%, so that’s as far as that goes.

Shadowdancer:

  • Untouchable (tier 5): Gain 1% Dodge per each Shadow Charge (maximum trainable is 7): 7% Dodge

I’m ignoring Meld into Darkness for the same reasons as A Scattering of Petals.

So a Shadowdancer has the highest additional epic Dodge of 7% for a potential 36%, but the cap still limits the total to 31%.

As for Epic feats, Combat Archery adds 2% Dodge along with its 1 weapon die damage bonus while using a bow. Still doesn’t help the cap.

Are there any other destinies that can add more Dodge or, most importantly, increases the cap for a Ninja Spy?

Yes to extra Dodge, but they would be very, very expensive to train as a Twisted ability, requiring at least 10 Fate points just to unlock and upgrade your first Twist slot to use tier 4 abilities, such as Echoes of the Ancestors-Martial, a tier 4 Fatesinger ability. However, I found no other destiny to help raise the Dodge cap past 31% for a Halfling Ninja Spy.

She could now wear Epic Dodge enhancement gear, which can appear with up to an 11% bonus, adding 5% more from a Heroic item to a potential of 41% or 42% Dodge for Grandmaster of Flowers or Shadowdancer, respectively. Still, the cap limits the effectiveness to 31%.

So let’s add the only other cap-raising option. This Halfling lass is in a level 103 guild. They have the Fencing Master ship buff for a 2% cap increase, raising Dodge cap to 33%.

So What is it Good For?

The “winner:” Any non-Halfling ninja, with all the Heroic class training alone listed, without Twisting a thing, wearing the highest Dodge enhancement item, and using all available Dodge options in either Shadowdancer or Grandmaster of Flowers , can have a 28% Dodge cap.

Be a Halfling and train it’s abilities, and you gain a 31% cap. Be in the right guild, and it’s 33%.

If the cap could go further, a Halfling ninja Shadowdancer would see a standing 42% potential.

My math can suck. If you see an error, shout out. Other hidden effects also generate Dodge nowadays without many of us thinking about, so these Dodge generation numbers are always sketchy, although the cap generation is quite clear.

As the forum thread notes, other classes, races and training can reach a higher Dodge and cap, especially with the incredible bonuses to both Dodge and Dodge caps in the Rogue Thief-Acrobat tree. The highest standing cap possible anywhere from anything appears to be 45%. Several players report that the temporary Dodge overrides that give 50 or even 100% Dodge for a few seconds tend to be bugged, so caveat emptor. All of my calculations deal with a full ninja, not a multiclassed one. There are other threads and blogs that detail how to twink every last drop of defense, offense and what-have-you by multiclassing. This blog ain’t it.

I don’t know of any past-live feats or abilities you gain that could help further. As the thread notes, it’s the cap, not Dodge itself, that’s hardest to maximize.

Combined with all other miss-chances, a ninja can survive pretty well. In fact, in the next post, I’ll update you with the revival of the ninja-aligned Zen Archery build and how Dodge plays an important role in her defense.

Totally Trippin’ Mystical Girl

Even on Normal, "Prey on the Hunter" is nasty-full of giants. But Quintessica saved the dragon, and had a nice chat.

Even on Normal, “Prey on the Hunter” is nasty-full of giants. But Quintessica saved the dragon, and had a nice chat.

I’m still getting the feel of the epic Henshin Mystic as I progress my first one through early Epic levels. Over the weekends, I moved through the Eveningstar quest chain and then into the Drow city quest chain, sticking to Legendary Dreadnought training and increasing Quintessica’s fighting options there.

(I know. I promised not to gush more about the Mystic. I kept my word with the last post. I didn’t say I’d stop writing about it altogether. Besides, it’s a new class tree and very little is out there in the wilds of the interwebs as to playing it as a pure Monk. I might be one of a very few number of sources on how the class plays.)

Ultimately, as with Lynncletica the tanker, Quintessica will have at least two Destiny modes of fighting. In Dreadnought mode, she favors the takedown power of her quarterstaff, using ki attacks to weaken but relying on various special melee attacks for greater hand-to-hand damage.

And then there’s Grandmaster of Flowers mode–something I’ve really, really have wanting to integrate. The answer to why should be clear. Quintessica’s ki bar at the moment is around 400 ki. With all her passive regeneration, her bar at rest continues to rise to about 380 ki. In short, it’s practically full most of the time.

So, I thought I’d see how I could dump that excess as would a spellcaster with mana to burn and/or shrines galore and with not a care in the world of running out. I wanted to utilize every ranged and tactical ki attack that a Mystic could do while also staff wielding. It’s time to go all Jedi on the masses.

Mystical Grandmaster

Most of you are familiar with Grandmaster of Flowers, the epic destiny that gives epic Monks some very good ranged and area-of-effect fighting options with ki attacks. Most of the time, even as an epic unarmed Monk, we’ll get low on ki reserves or find that we’re spamming attacks faster than the cooldowns in this destiny.

But the Mystic brings in additional ki attacks of its own, combined with doublestriking, critical damage and high ki regeneration. So, in Grandmaster mode, here’s all of the offensive ki strikes a Mystic can do. Since cooldowns are 3, 6 , 9, 12 and 15 seconds for the most common attacks, there’s plenty of time to spam each one of these almost constantly in battle.

  • Ki Bolt (Mystic) – Fire and Force damage from a very long-range attack, 3 seconds.
  • Incinerating Wave (Mystic) – Fire and Force damage, long-range directional attack, 9 seconds.
  • Fists of Iron (Mystic) – 3(W) ki attack with +1 critical range and threat multiplier, 3 seconds.
  • Void Strike (Mystic) – 10d6 Force damage, on Vorpal, erases enemy from existence, 3 seconds.
  • Lily Petal (GMoF) – 300-400 magic damage to single enemy, can be evaded, 6 seconds.
  • Orchid Blossom (GMoF) –  300-400 magic damage to multiple enemies, can be evaded, 12 seconds.
  • Drifting Lotus (GMoF) – 300-400 magic damage in area-of-effect, 3 second knockdown probable, 15 seconds.

And then there’s the staff-based tactical attacks…

  • Cleave: 1(W) strike in a forward arc, 5 seconds.
  • Whirlwind Attack: 4(W) strike in 360-degree spin, 5 seconds.

I’ve learned that my Two Handed Fighting feat really isn’t all that effective, While Fighters have enough feat slots to take the full line to be more effective, a Monk (this one, anyway) can’t do it. I’ve swapped out that feat in favor of

  • Great Cleave: 2(W) strike in a half arc, 5 seconds.

That’s right. I’ll have three separate cleave effects–and these don’t count the Legendary Dreadnought strikes when in that mode. This will disable my human enhancement for glancing blow effects but, like THF, Great Weapon Aptitude wasn’t all that effective in relation to all the ki damage I add to strikes, anyway.

Those two freed AP can now give me Greater Heroism. Imagine three cleave effects going off after I knock down a mob with a Drifting Lotus. The mob will not be getting up.

I wanted to test how most of these effects would work against some tough foes and decided to try out the Cannith Manufactury recently. Filled with Warforged, heavily fortified living constructs who could not be neg-leveled (my preferred way to attack, using a Dreamspitter), I needed to resort to stronger staff attacks.

On entering and getting assaulted immediately, I found a new and disturbing change with the artificers there. They like to throw the Lightning Motes spell a lot now. This is a ranged electrical daze spell that takes 3-9 seconds to shake off. Update 19 changed the effective DCs here, and you’re likely to get stunned immediately.

I can’t imagine what many players are doing against these guys now–but being a Monk, I had the Grasp the Earth Dragon finisher to make me immune from stun for a short while as I targeted the artificers.

Healing Speed

One thing I find more challenging is self-healing. With an unarmed Monk, stunning is common, so you can take your relative time to build up Healing Ki finishers for greater effect. But with a Mystic, it’s damage, damage, damage.

You can still work in the healing finisher but you’re likely also spamming special strikes. This is far more likely the case when using Legendary Dreadnought’s many attacks as opposed to the fewer options in Grandmaster mode. None of the Dreadnought attacks break up finishers, being tactical strikes…you’ll just find it harder to fit in the ki attacks with the LD attacks.

Quintessica sits around the 515-540 HP range, so she’s a bit more durable but still takes a beating, despite rarely standing still. Healing Ki hits around 80-100 with the Purple Dragon Gauntlets equipped and a weaker Devotion item that I should upgrade sometime.

For crunch times I should add in an Ardor potion for an alchemical bonus. I’ve built a steel +2 Aligned Quarterstaff of Vampirism with a silver gem in its red augment slot as a better Harry Beater and emergency survival stick to help.

Defenses

QuinAndGholaFanQuin can blur herself, but finds her fight times last much longer than the Dance of Clouds’s one-minute buff since she often takes on mobs wholesale. That’s riskier since mobs bring a kitchen sink of trouble.

I’ve been reworking tactics, using the very-long range Ki Bolt to pull single enemies for an easier mob dilution. Despite her ability to take on mobs, it’s not Quin’s better idea unless there’s not a choice–she’s a might squishier defensively than Lynncletica the tanker and Ryncletica the Ninja if in the wrong place.

It helps that she doesn’t stand still long while throwing ki attacks and weapon spins. In the Cannith quests, I’ve learned to do this with enemy Artificers as they are clearly the most dangerous now with their stuns and Blade Barriers for those in party without Evasion.

In short, Quin really needs a greater blurring option, so she’s got a Green Steel helm in mind for later. Same problem is true for Dodge and Incorporeality. She’ll never see numbers like Ryncletica the Ninja, but something has to be better than nothing. An Epic Ring of Shadows remains on the docket. For now, she’s using some Treads of Falling Shadow for a 10% incorporeal. A bit of loot rearranging leaves Quin at 24% Dodge in LD mode, so that’s practically maxed in any other fight mode.

Damage

This is the question that many prospective players want to know. How much do all of these effects hit? How often? How is the quarterstaff damage? How useful is Incinerating Wave, especially in Epic? Answer: It’s surprisingly good. With spell power in the 140s or better, a Wave hits a typical enemy with 120-250 damage combined–more if they are vulnerable. This stuff stacks up as you smack a mob up every 9 seconds–and remember that often spell criticals make things worse.

Jump in with the best damaging quarterstaff I have, the Stout Oak Walking Stick, and hits of 60-80 with 200-500 criticals start popping up, even a 600 or 700 one from time to time. The unlocked Rahl’s Might still works when I need a slashing option.

I’m building a Green Steel quarterstaff for a stronger, durable Harry Beater. (A rust monster literally chomped my Metalline of Pure Good staff very quickly in a recent “Rainbow in the Dark” run. Oh, Rusty!..how could you?!)

GMoF ki attacks are potent magic; those who cannot evade get another 300-400 damage. With the right timing, you throw a Wave (it moves slowly), outrun it to drop a Drifting Lotus to knock them down, make some cleaves just as the Wave hits for more damage, jumping back with an Orchid Blossom to finish off stragglers. Some never rise from that knockdown.

Ki Bolt is very handy. How so? I took Quin into “The Jungle of Khyber” on Epic Normal, accompanied by my faithful panther and Klin, the Cleric With a Demon Summons That I Can’t Spell Right Now. We slay well enough, getting into a small pickle with an overwhelming mob that kills the hirelings and requires me to go into pick-off mode to rescue them. After, we venture into the beholder area.

We pick off two of the Xoriat beachballs conventionally. Then I spot two floating far away in the mushroom grotto (where the three runes reside). I send bolts at one beholder from extreme long range, so far that the beholder can’t fire back anything nor can discern who’s striking him to charge forward and attack. I have lots of ki and lots of time with 150 damage per strike. Scratch one, then two beholders.

Twisting in some LD attacks as well as the cleave effects while in Grandmaster mode should add additional hell. When red names appear, the Stout Oak Stick is the go-to weapon with its powerful critical hits and Aligned effect that assures that anything that hasn’t combination DR bypass (such as a pit fiend) is going to get hurt. Add in the Action Boosts for damage or haste and Quin officially holds title as my dojo’s greatest DPS Monk.

The Trip

Testing Quin’s solo mettle in the Devil Battlefield, I found three bosses, all golems, in my travels. I pull out the Walking Stick and go flailing. And I tripped the golems, over and over again. The Stick trips anything on a vorpal with no save possible. It’s quite humorous as well as a powerful effect against bosses, not to mention the poor devils and demons that go prone from the hits.

It’s not quite reliable as Stunning Fist can be, but I’ll take it.

I’m almost ready for my own private Burly Brawl.

Mabar Hijinks

Logged in yesterday to see that Mabar had returned. The code generally looks good with a few bouts of lag while 0-2 in killing the dragon (both altar protect failures).

What Quintessica loves is that the graveyard’s type of L20-25 occupants are limited to vampires, lichs and lots and lots of fleshy Shadar-Kai. Now I know many players dread these guys because of their ferocious attacks with their spinning chains.

I prefer to aggro about 10 of them and apply all of the above attacks. Drifting Lotus + Cleave + Great Cleave + Whirlwind Attack = 8-9 dead Shadar-Kai. The lichs are very dangerous; use any knockdown AoE you have and have a Shield clicky at the ready for its massive missile attacks. Limited to using attacks that work publicly, which excludes Lily Petal and Incinerating Wave. I get by.

The amount of Cursed Fingerbones I collect per hour is just insane. Now I did mention these Shadar-Kai guys aren’t undead, right? That means that they take neg-levels and critical hits so very nicely.

I’m stocking up on Death Ward potions for the entire dojo, but I know that many, many players will be playing hard and heavy through the 11th.

For Turbine will give you a +5 ability tome of your choosing, 1 per character, with enough collectables you get from three Mabar dragon kills.

Well played, Turbine. Well played.

Mystic needs a strong set of muscles.

I say “HA!” to Neg Levels

I take my Monks through two “trials” for self-sufficiency, attack and defense. Quin took on “Devil Assault” completely solo on Epic Normal and won (almost lost to bugged Silver/Holy crafted wraps) and “Invaders”–aka, “Beholders R Us.” Typically I bring in a Fergus and his Restoration in case of negative levels, but this time, armed with the Sun Soul epic gear, Quintessica entered completely alone on Elite.

She went in Grandmaster of Flames stance most of the way. I stunned and spun and blew up things, naturally. But after a Beholder or eight managed to neg-level me, I worked them off. Any time I made a natural 20 critical, the set threw a Cure Moderate Wounds and Restoration on me. In short, I removed my own neg-levels as I fought. When the neg-levels came too rapidly, out came the epic destiny ability Wholeness of Body to remove them all (as well as anything else that bothered me).

The Sun Soul set is the “epic Jidz-Tet’ka” must-have items for any Monk!

Quintessentially Powerful

As noted in my last, I began building an experimental Monk that concentrated on powerful attacks and relied less on special Prestige Enhancement attacks and abilities. I called it the “Avatar” build since she would possess all four Monk Grandmaster stances.

Turns out, Quintessica is one ticked-off and dangerous halfling fighter. I declare her a big success.

I hope to put a few shots of her work, but let me update you on how things progressed for her to current level 23.

The Limit by Design

I noted that taking four Grandmasters prohibited a Monk from taking Void Strike IV and Monk Serenity heroic capstone. This is by design, I learned. Before taking any Grandmaster stance, you must spend exactly 64 action points, leaving you 16. Guess how many points it takes per Grandmaster stance? Yes, four. And four times four means zero points left for anything else.

That was good news, in a way. I found myself stockpiling points after gaining all Master stances prior to taking the Grandmasters. It left me the opportunity to actually add Shintao Monk I and II into the build as I had to spend up to 64 points. I had taken advantage of the metal-studded handwraps that drop far more frequently now in Update 14, and tried to craft Holy of Maiming on each Byeshk, Cold Iron and Silver.

Turns out the Silver ones are bugged; the Silver DR does not work for some reason, so back to the crafting halls I go. Fortunately, some CRAZY PERSON had sold a pair of +3 Silver Handwraps of Pure Good in House Deneith’s stores one day. (I kid you not! Prior to Update 14, you could ask the maximum price for these babies or Metalline of Pure Good on the Auction House.)

So, with Byeshk and Cold Iron inboard, there were two serious problems as noted before. One, Quintessica’s hit points remained seriously low. Thankfully, Grandmaster of Earth, with an Improved False Life item, keeps her around the 480-500 mark, more so with buffs. GM of Earth also makes her far more durable, as I’ve learned from Lynncletica, my Shintao III Earth Grandmaster.

While leveling up to 20, Quin’s favorite attack used paralyzers, stuns or banishing wraps. The steps were simple.

  1. Find a mob and jump into the center of them.
  2. Use Whirlwind Attack…a 360 4[W] cleave.
  3. Kill what few enemies were left standing.
  4. Repeat.

My damage with a Whirlwind often killed at least half a mob if my Seeker effects went off. I had little of that until Epic level 1 and new gear (more in a moment).

Leveling went very fast, thanks to several marathon guild runs hither and yon. Then I realized it was the Epic Destinies that would show how really well this build works.

I already gushed about how awesome the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny can be. The Mighty Quin gets Epic level 1, enjoys her new DragonBall KAMEHAME-HA!!! ki attacks and then finds herself the benefactor of three new game-changing items and 1 feat…as if she wasn’t slaying enough things already.

  • Grave Wrappings. These suck the ever-loving life from EVERYTHING but red-named monsters. They don’t really care about the target’s damage reduction. They enervate the hell out of something so that a stun is certain and death is quick. I wear these all the time…screw the negative-level it gives you as a result. You won’t care.
  • Drow Smoke Goggles. I’ve been crawling the Demon Sands for a Blood Stone. Screw that–these have Blindness Immunity, Seeker +6 and Manslayer? If the Grave Wrappings don’t send Quin’s foes to Cania fast enough, a Manslayer hit procs 4 times out of 10 for her now.
  • Spider-Spun Caparison. Yeah, everybody’s wearing them, but that’s because they work as well as they look. A gift from a very generous guild-mate.
  • Improved Critical: Bludgeoning. This feat, combined with the first above, sent Quin into Destroyer of Worlds territory as critical hits exploded from her hand.

And Quin wasn’t done.

She reached Tier 4 or so of her destiny and received Drifting Lotus. You remember that one?

So, with the gear above, I can modify my attack sequence a little bit.

  1. Find mob and mosh into it.
  2. Use Drifting Lotus.
  3. Use Whirlwind Attack.
  4. Walk away without flinching at the circular dead on the ground.

Often, there is few to none left alive after that bit of work. Everyone around me gets 400-800 points of damage or are instantly slain, depending on what they were hit with.

And Quin is, by far, the finest stunning Monk in my arsenal. She can stun Epic Normal foes 90% of the time with Stunning +10 in place.

The Verdict on the Avatar

Building Quintessica has been fun. Does having all Grandmasters make a difference? I would say “yes,” but it is not a requirement for serious butt-whooping. It does make for incredible versatility.

Start a fight in Ultimate Fire Stance, spin-attack a mob and your ki is already half-full. Drop into Earth Stance for defense and damage. Light easy-to-kill mobs, high jumps, or speed for attacks or  traversing long areas enjoy Ultimate Wind Stance. When coming up on serious traps and a need to avoid damage and/or regenerate ki quickly without creating much threat takes Ultimate Ocean Stance.

I’m not missing Monk Serenity now, as GMoF’s feats add that one in effectively by Tier 6, as well as Enhanced Ki from the outfits.

And yes, Quin owns the Vestments of the Sun Soul and its two additional set items. Kicking each ability of the set on while in each Grandmaster stance and a vorpal-level hit gives me a Radiant Forcefield (Earth), Cure Moderate Wounds and Restoration (Fire…gotta have this on when something neg-levels me), Freedom of Movement and 6% to Doublestrike (Wind) or Fire Shield/Cold (Water), each for a brief time.

I’ll post a bit more, hopefully with pics. Quintessica has made me realize it’s time to reincarnate Lynncletica already. Quin is the most superior Monk I have, and I’m totally stoked.

Sure, I can’t Void something out of existence (at least until I get DEATH BLOSSOM…er, I mean “Everything is Nothing”) or Jade reliably. But Quin stuns, knocks down and slays so well, it doesn’t matter.

Death Blossom Incarnate: The Grandmaster of Flowers

Ever since the Menace of the Underdark expansion came out, I have been obsessed in exploring what it meant for the Monk class (what a surprise). With Syncletica doddering at 19, Lynncletica, my Grandmaster of Earth light Monk, has been getting a workout.

MoTU’s Epic Destinies, if you’ve been living under a dungeon lately, are impressive enhancements that allow you to greatly augment your toon’s abilities, especially now that the whole of the Demonweb and Faerun Drow are quite able to kick you in places you didn’t know you had.

Being the “Monk blog,” let’s get into the Epic Destiny called “Grandmaster of Flowers.”

Level 1: Channel Your Inner Dragonball Z Fighter

The coolest part of this destiny for non-Monks is that it seems designed for Monk splashes or characters that could enjoy a bit of Monkliness. If you are a non-Monk, you gain Monk abilities (no Evasion, however), including ki and natural unarmed fighting (although you don’t gain the Monk’s innate unarmed damage level). For Monks, you get to greatly augment your protections and offensive abilities.

The tree of Grandmaster of Flowers is comparatively flexible than some other Destiny trees. In other words, you need only spend points to get certain abilities and (with the exception of the lowest rung) need not take many prerequisites in a chain to qualify for a later boost.

You start by getting Inner Focus. Passively, it grants you a ki bar and fills it based on your level, as well as some Spell Resistance. A level 20 then would get 60 ki and 6 SR for this. Actively, it’s an instant ki boost, giving you 25- 125 ki immediately with a 3 minute cooldown. Handy. Your new Level 1 ability isn’t much to write home about. Centered Mind is a Monkly counterpart to Slippery Mind to help save against enchantments (as if your insane Spell Resistance isn’t helping here. Lynncletica started to show 34 SP by this time).

The first tier grants abilities to improve attacks, dodge and tumble. But one item caught my eye and pulled it from its socket.

True ranged attacks using ki alone. That starts with the innocently-named Lily Petal. For 10 ki, you fling a ball of Magic at a foe. If they fail their Reflex save, they take 300+ damage. A saving Reflex gives them half damage. Evasive foes such as archers can avoid damage altogether.

Lily Petal alone changed the dynamics of the Monk’s game, where ranged attacks were their weakest. As much as I have crafted shurikens to increase their damage, it’s time-consuming to use them to destroy something you can’t jump to, even if you have Bursted weaponry that goes off every so often while in Earth stance. Most foes are not immune to Magic, so Lily Petal adds a quick way to attack effectively and at a safe distance.

That’s good. Because I recently ran into a Green Dragon that should really keep his distance.

Each tier also gives you an opportunity to improve on your Wisdom or Dexterity ability stats with 2 destiny points (their name for “action points” gained with Epic Destiny ranking). A great option for those who need a +3 tome and can’t find one, ’cause that’s what this is!

Level 2 and 3: More Kamehame Hadoken and Stance Improvements

Level 2’s new ability is probably the handiest of all: Wholeness of Spirit is effectively the Cleric’s Unyielding Sovereignity. Every 5 minutes, you can use 30 ki to remove any and all negative levels, cast a Heal spell and remove any other afflictions. That’s awesome; negative levels are a bane. Your new Level 3 ability is very useful. The Abiding Path now makes you immune to slippery surfaces.

Level 2 also adds enhancements that Wind Stance Monks can enjoy. Running With Wind improves electrical resistances and adds to your doublestrike ability while in Wind Stance. The Hail of Blows enhancement adds more doublestriking (although it’s not clear if these are stacking, it seems probable that it does since Wind Stance is all about doublestrikes). You need to spend 3 destiny points here to move on to Level 3.

But at Level 3, Lily Petal just got out-moded by Orchid Blossom. Same as Lily Petal in effect but now hits many targets. It uses twice as much ki, however, at 20, than Lily, and has a 12 second cooldown over Lily’s 6 second. Yeah, I still spam the two nicely in fights.

Tier 3 offers greater dodge defenses while in Water Stance using Walking With Waves, as well as more innate cold resistance and better AC. Non-Monks or splashes can get Feather Fall/Perfect Slow Fall with a point in Light As A Feather–pure Monks can skip this one entirely. There’s also Perfection of Body to improve your Fortitude saves.

Level 4 and 5: I Ain’t ‘Fraid of No Ghost, or Mobs

Your new Level 4 ability is a nice tactical advantage. Ubiquity now allows you to Tumble through an enemy to flank them and continue fighting. This is a great tactic against foes that like to knock you down or hit harder than most as you can move about in Muhammad Ali “stick-and-move” style.

Level 5’s final ability is Balance In All Things. You are now immune to knockdown, get another +1 to ki regeneration (awesome) and get a +1 DC to your tactical feats.

Level 4 adds happiness to Lynncletica’s defenses in Earth Stance. Standing With Stone adds acid resistance, more HP and, in Earth Stance, adds +5 to your Physical Resistance Rating. For a ‘swishy,’ more PRR deflects damage and is very welcome. You can take this (and similar stance-based enhancements) up to three times. Level 4 also offers Piercing Clarity: Ethereal attacks are innate for you; no more Ghost Touch or other gear required,  and a second helping of this allows you to penetrate as if you had True Seeing.

The next ki attack has become my new lead-off, rather than Stunning Fist. Orchid Blossom gets out-moded by Drifting Lotus. For 25 ki, your Monk slams down their fist, and anything that fails their Reflex save gets knocked down for 3 seconds and takes 300+ ki magic damage. It’s got a 15 second cooldown, so combining this with an Orchid Blossom means many mobs have lost half their hit points (or more) before you’ve landed one blow against them. A second Drifting Lotus is often the end of the entire mob. Watch out for Evasive toons as they can sometimes save against it.

At Level 5 and 20 points spent you unlock your next to last ki attack, which is now more a defense. A Scattering of Petals gives you 25% dodge for 12 seconds and blinds your attackers if they fail their Fortitude save.

Epic Moment: Everything is Nothing

I had to save this one for last.

Every Epic Destiny gets an Epic Moment: A special attack or defense that can put your character into god-mode invincibility for a little while.

In the case of the Grandmaster of Flowers, it’s undoubtedly the most powerful attack a Monk can have. While I like the Buddhist-leaning name of Everything Is Nothing (as it is also quite descriptive), the devs missed out on keeping their floral naming scheme down.

Everything is Nothing should be called Death Blossom. It takes 2 destiny points to get it. Here’s what you need to do to use it.

Begin using Stunning Fist, Quivering Palm, Lily Petal, Orchid Blossom, Drifting Lotus and Scattering of Petals. Each time you use it, the “Perfect Peace” counter (which is shown in your buff bar) counts upward. When that counter reaches 25, you’ll see a mild luminous blast from your body (which harms nothing)–that’s your cue that Everything Is Nothing is charged. You’ll also see a “1” in the ability in your toolbar.

Now, just like Alex and Grig in the (still-cool looking) Gunstar fighter in The Last Starfighter, don’t use EiN until you need it most or if you are going through a zone transition (doors, quests), which will reset the counter.

Now, gather the mobs. Get everyone’s attention. Make them hate you like disco fanatics who crashed your mosh pit.

Overwhelmed now? Good. Activate it.

I also have another nickname for EiN: Void Strike IV, Mass. Any foe that fails it’s saving throw is ejected from the multiverse (complete with the familiar purple-glow of a Voided enemy). If the enemies do save, well, they’re still hosed. They’re paralyzed for 6 seconds–before they take 1,000 points of damage, less if they save on Fortitude. Red-named bosses can’t be ejected or paralyzed but still can take damage.

The only thing I don’t know yet is how large the radius of the voiding effect is. I’ve pondered entering Kobold Assault to gather up as many of the little varmints around me to see how big that field casts.

Yeah, kobolds will definitely hate me. As a race. Genocidally.