Keeping Shadow at Bay

Hours after the last post on preparing for Lynncletica’s first epic raid tanking, I remembered at the last minute that a raid was scheduled that same day.

I made the decision to move the Little Mountain to hold back the Sibilant Shade, Aurgoloroasa, in “Temple of the Deathwyrm.”

The most-excellent raid group, formed from several different guilds, met for their twice-weekly run into Thunderholme. To survive trying to tank the dragon, I needed one thing: Level 27. With sufficient work on my destinies that wouldn’t jeopardize future XP too much, I leveled up, added Epic Damage Reduction for 10 PRR more, and pulled the level 27 Guardian’s Cloak from my reincarnation cache for desperately-needed DR against slash and pierce damage.

In Unyielding Sentinel destiny, I checked my gear and looked at my twists. With 3 fate points available, I upgraded the second slot and added Fury of the Wild’s Damage Reduction for 6 PRR more.

I hoped to wear the Epic Mentau’s Goggles for Ghostly through the raid. However. the dragon’s occasionally deadly breath attack debuffs Death Ward, leaving you vulnerable to excessive negative energy damage without Deathblock. Unable to upgrade a slot in time for the raid for an inexpensive yellow augment, it was back to wearing some Green Steel goggles I’ve trusted for this.

The raid was smooth and uneventful and fast as we made our way to the top, fortunately avoiding the taxing Jump and Red Light/Green Light intermediate rooms for the Trap and Tower Combat rooms.

Then the moment of truth came. I checked both my Intimidate and Concentration skills. Ki Shout would be my more dominant intimidate but I added the Intimidate button to my toolbar just in case. I learned later, not surprisingly, that they share cooldowns like Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot.

With a quick check of my defense/healing gear, off I went.

lynn-dw1.jpg

My plan was simple and similar to any tanks before me: Intimidate by either skill and keep striking the dragon. As a Monk, I wanted to build ki for Healing Ki when needed, use Rejuvenation Cocoon if Healing Ki becomes interrupted. In short, I’m continually healing as I fight, so as not to require a dedicated healer.

Things have gotten wild in other DW runs, especially if the tank loses control or the crowd controlling party that manages the Kuldjarghs and respawns become overwhelmed. I needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, and Lynn’s training and gear did not disappoint. Thankfully, Aurgoloroasa hasn’t any other special attacks, and as a Shintao Monk, I had a few special protections to help against undead even as powerful as her.

I would like to see if the Shock and Awe effect that dragons throw out can be offset by the Monk’s anti-stun finisher, Grasp the Earth Dragon. I hadn’t time to throw a buff for it at the time. (A later run showed that the buff is ineffective.) Shock and Awe slowed me most of time, naturally, since this is a big freakin’ angry undead shadow dragon.

One thing I learned quickly to do once the dragon started knocking me down (Stand Against the Tide’s secondary ability that prevents knockdown, Steadfast, doesn’t work against all knockdown types) was first to move to Unbreakable stance for PRR and then do something Monks don’t think of doing often: Block.

lynn-dw2.jpg

Even without a shield, a simple block seemed to prohibit knockdown (although the wiki does not note this), wards off some attack types and, thus reduce the damage I received. Once I had my HP restored, I turtled up for a bit, struck to gain back some ki, and blocked again.

Once or twice, the dragon’s successive attacks knocked me down and left me with just one-quarter health. The feat Guardian Angel kicked on for emergency PRR but I hadn’t time to look at that, of course. A single quick Cocoon restored my HP bar, thanks to 220 healing amplification. The healing curse also pulled 4 or 8 HP per strike.

The secondary worry was losing aggro. This was an accomplished raid team that knew when to attack the dragon to lower her HP in order for her to spawn Shadows to kill for portals used to enter the shadow side for phylactery destruction. But too much damage by the group and I could lose the dragon’s attention. Thankfully my threat level was sufficient. Only once did I need to rein her back in.

The great thing was that I tanked it well, defended well against the damage, healed myself most of the time, and could move her around enough to help complete the raid.

Now, the group decided just for Epic Hard that night, having suffered a brutal Epic Elite completion days before due to game issues.

Tanking was most triumphant.

A few days later we tried Elite “Fire on Thunder Peak.” I was tanking the “fat” dragon quite well. Things, however, went very pear-shaped after the two purple-named magma elementals were killed. Our teams were in poor alignment for more trash and the dragon’s attacks increased (as expected), leaving me more vulnerable. We abandoned our Epic Elite run and returned to curb-stomp things on Hard.

But, in my opinion, no more vulnerable than any other tank. I’ve seen heavily armored guys die easier than I did.  As a Shintao, my general defenses are good, and I have room for a bit more with some item farming and creative use of twists. Lesser Displacement. Another 30 PRR. Healing amp so strong I can heal 600 HP with Healing Ki.

Since then, Lynncletica has reached level 30, choosing Elusive TargetOverwhelming Critical and Dire Charge to complete the feats to 29. For the Legendary feat, I chose something new for me: Scion of Limbo. I’m used to one-minute buffs. The advantage here is that Limbo costs me nothing to use and works passively. I can time tactics as buff messages appear.

Filling in some epic destinies for 4 more fate points for twisting Sense Weakness. Not that Lynn has been hurting for damage. At around 50 STR and using the incredible burst damage of the Storm’s Harness handwraps, Lynn has begun to solo Epic Elites to work on her 5,000 favor. Her stunning work is also very strong there: As high as 80 DC for Dire Charge and a 68-70 DC for Stunning Fist. More than sufficient to stun Champion orange-names most times.

For those DCs, I wear level 30 Severlin’s Leaden Boots, a Legendary Animated Rope for +14 Combat Mastery (Enhancement bonus), some Insightful Combat Mastery +6 gloves, and Legendary Tactics from Legendary Dreadnought as a twist. I wear some Wisdom +14 goggles but haven’t any Insightful WIS items equipped just yet. The Storm’s Harness wraps add a +4 Quality Stunning bonus, too. My WIS is rarely above 40. Dire Charge uses your highest ability score, which is either STR or CON, both often in the 50s.

If I’m going to continue tanking shadow dragons, however, I need the negative energy absorbing powers of the Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance. I should have one, but farming for it shouldn’t be too hard.

Update 33 Testing

The DDO forums are abuzz with player comments and a few replies from the devs on the expected changes.

Given the magnitude of changes, and with a little encouragement from Cordovan, I’ve decided to join in the testing of U33 once it’s live on Lammania.

It’s amazing to me how some much criticism has been generated. I find it amazing because historically, the many functions of the Monk, certainly the most complex of the melee class, don’t seem to be used by many players I’ve seen in my circle. Everyone has a right to comment and aid in the development. I wish I knew more players that seem to actually use the enhancements and feats, attack and defense benefits at the level I’ve tried. Trying and using everything in the class is what my guide and gaming practice is all about.

Not that I’m omniscient to know the hearts and techniques of all players, of course. I’m always concerned how some players miss out on the tactical elements of the class, and think that more attack power or defense is simply the way to go.

But again, I’m oversimplifying other’s motives. I guess I don’t see any serious deficiencies in the class (save the Mystic’s defense and attack speed) that can’t be compensated by strategy.

Since the Book of Syncletica is going to need some significant changes on the update’s release, getting ahead on how the changes work will help update the guide that much sooner.

Can’t wait to begin.

Staying Alive

As with many of my characters, I never trained Lynncletica much beyond their aligned epic destiny of Grandmaster of Flowers. That’s changed, of course.

At level 26, she’s holding her level-ups as she fills up other destinies to gain other abilities when using Twist of Fate slots.

In what areas I have leveled, I found myself tempted to take epic feats that supported Lynn’s unarmed damage. But I’ve resisted so far.

If I’m ever to tank reliably in raids such as “Temple of the Deathwyrm”, I need two other abilities: physical resistance and healing amplification.

Both of these are supported in one defensive destiny I will use for tanking: Unyielding Sentinel. That’s no surprise, I’m sure.

My PRR goal was 150, or 60% damage reduction. Looks like I’ll easily have most of this, 142 PRR minimum, by level 27 with the following:

  • Ultimate Mountain Stance (Monk stance): 15, untyped
  • Iron Skin (Shintao enhancement): 15, untyped
  • Meditation of War (Shintao enhancement), 10, Insight bonus
  • Epic Damage Reduction (Epic feat, level 27): 10, untyped
  • Improved Combat Expertise (Legendary Dreadnought, tier 2, Twisted, while in Combat Expertise stance), 20, untyped
  • Heed No Pain (Unyielding Sentinel, while in Unbreakable stance): 30, untyped
  • Ring with Sheltering +27 (Enhancement bonus)
  • Planar Prowess (Antipode handwraps and Planar Focus of Prowess): 15, untyped
  • Guardian Angel (when <50% HP): 40-60 (WIS score and saving throws to PRR for 30 seconds)

There’s still more to play with depending on Twist of Fate slots, such as the tier 4 Standing with Stone from Grandmaster of Flowers as a Twisted ability (15 untyped), the level 29 Outfit of the Celestial Guardian’s +38 Sheltering, the Legendary Boots of the Devil Commander (Quality +8; it’s Insight bonus is offset by Meditation of War) and either Scion of Limbo for a chance at +30 PRR or Scion of Earth for +20.

Beyond 150 PRR, there’s little point. I’d be better off improving miss-chance, Reflex saves (which Lynn is weakest), AC and healing amplification.

A few friends in party have been impressed at my healing amplification, and I like it, too. Nowandays it’s easy to calculate this: Just open your character sheet and hover your mouse pointer over your HP information.

At level 27, I have an absolute minimum amp of 110. That comes from

  • Human Improved Recovery (racial enhancement): 60, untyped
  • Shintao core enhancements: 50

The guild airship buff Bath House adds 20.

The remaining are situational based on selected feats, destiny, Monk stance or equipped items.

  • Epic Jidz-Tet’ka (while in Fire Stance, Insight bonus): 50
  • Iron Mitts (Competence bonus): 60
  • Vigor of Battle (Unyielding Sentinel): 20
  • Scion of Limbo (Legendary feat, random buff): 40

Through equipment and Fire Stance, 270 is my current high in Unyielding Sentinel. This isn’t an optimal configuration as it compromises my PRR and AC defense significantly, so it’s for illustration.

lynn-amp-stat

Then I wear an epic Shamanic Fetish for a 108 equipment bonus to positive spell power, and a 28 Heal skill that stacks on this.

I smack the training dummy with Fists of Light vampiric healing curses. Here’s the result.

lynn-amp1.jpg

And then I use the Healing Ki finisher.

lynn-amp2.jpg

Yep. I heal myself for around 425 to 525 HP per 10 seconds on Healing Ki alone and restore 5 to 10 HP while charging it up per attack over about 10 seconds.

And, like most epic players, I twist Rejuvenation Cocoon, which hits for up to 9 seconds or until healed. I had to go into the Subterrane to find a living spell to damage me to test this. Here’s that result.

lynn-amp-cocoon

So Lynncletica, even with only 200 amp, should have ample means to keep herself hale and hearty through many fights, restoring one-third to one-half her HP at any time.

But it’s slash damage that scares me most, and I must do what little I can to ward off some of that, in as much as epic monsters will allow that. By level 27 the Guardian Cloak will have to help as I haven’t discovered any other mitigation options just yet.

I hope to tank my first raid this weekend. If it happens I’ll try to record or take a few shots of it. Tanks tend to be a busy sort of group.

 

 

Monastic Tanking

portrait-lynncletica1

I’ve been enjoying opportunities to run many raids, some I’ve rarely or never run before, such as “The Mark of Death” and “The Master Artificer.” I think, now, that the only raid I have never participated (primarily because of my disdain of the quest series needed to gather sigil, shield and frame ingredients) is “Accursed Ascension.”

But “Mark of Death” isn’t my favorite raid, anyway, so I’m sure “Ascension” won’t be a loss. I’ll still try to flag for it when an opportunity arises.

Ninety nine percent of my raids are as a DPS character, be it with the fortification-bypassing steady-hitting archery of Pynthetica, the crowd-controlling mass-destruction from the bow of Paracleta, or the poisonous shortsword damage of Ryncletica.

But one matter is common in many raids. The need for a tank, a character that can keep a central boss target busy while the rest of the party can remove trash and complete other related objectives necessary to eventually slay said bosses. Surprisingly, I’ve watched many a non-Fighter or non-Paladin accomplish this role in the Thunderholme raids.

I’ve mentioned, long ago, my work to align Lynncletica to become a tank. Nearing level 20, I’m closer to beginning my work to help out in epic raids.

But I know the character’s behavior in gameplay is just as important as the build to ensure that enemies pay attention to you and not the rest of the party.

The general article on the Tank on the DDO Wiki was helpful.

According to the article, a tank has to have central characteristics to be successful:

  • Health
  • Healing amplification
  • Armor Class
  • Saves
  • Damage Reduction
  • Intimidation (active and passive)
  • Balance
  • Weapons and items that increase Threat
  • Enhancements and other boosts

Health

Lynn’s HP gain per level as a Monk is only 75% of other melee tanks, requiring me to take the Toughness feat a few times and take Constitution enhancements from enhancements or Epic Destinies anywhere I can. My goal is to get Lynn to at least 1,000 HP this time around. That may seem low for a tank but as a Monk, Lynn has some special damage reduction abilities that others haven’t, such as miss-chance effects.

Unyielding Sentinel will likely be the default epic destiny, aiding not only in HP but threat and protection.

Damage Absorption

With recent changes, Lynn’s epic PRR should reach 100 or above. I was able to get Pynthetica’s PRR between 60 to 80 PRR with gear as an archer, so a Monk designed to tank should be able to improve that number. Like the miss-chance effects on Pyn, I have a lot of studying ahead of me to stack all available sources.

Healing amplification

At level 19, with a Shamanic Fetish in place, all Improved Recovery enhancements trained and with only one core enhancement left in the Shintao tree, Lynn’s Healing Ki can restore as much as 200 HP every 10 seconds. At around 490 HP, that’s helpful. This will improve with buffs and an epic Shamanic Fetish later in epic play. Healing amp gear also will play important roles, even items to add to my cross-class Heal skill.

Lynn might see 250-300 HP bursts from Healing Ki, with healing shield vampiric HP of 6-8 HP per strike probable. Self-healing is Lynn’s strongest quality.

Armor Class

Lynn’s AC is aided by Combat Expertise and the Monk’s Grandmaster of Mountains stance to boost total AC by 30%. All I must do I maximize the numbers through items to get that bonus. Around 150 to 200 AC is a suitable goal, but this will require a lot of item juggling and augment gems to boost Deflection and Natural Armor bonuses. Lynn’s DEX is lower so items to boost it and WIS for more AC will be critical.

Monks can’t use shields. But I can gain Shield bonuses from one item: A Flawless White Dragonscale Robe. I have a Flawless White helm, too, to get the HP artifact bonus. This set may be helpful over Shadowscale outfits until I can equip the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, still the best armor I think you can find for any Monk by level 28.

Saves

Lynn’s saves are better than many tanks but weaker in one area, and that’s Reflex. Thankfully, perhaps a +5 or +6 tome in combination with enhancements to get DEX and its Reflex save higher. Fortitude and Will saves will be superior, thanks to high STR and WIS.

Damage Reduction

I mentioned improving Lynn’s miss-chance numbers to help avoid damage. Monks gain DR 20/Epic at level 20. The epic Guardian’s Cloak from Wheloon is a popular item I use on all my epic characters, with additional DR help.

Intimidate

So I’ve practiced my protection skills against charging mobs using weaker-than-normal hirelings, clerics, typically. The central ability is Ki Shout, an Intimidate-like ability that uses a Shintao Monk’s Concentration skill as the Intimidate number.

Ki Shout works quite well and I’m able to keep my clerics from getting slaughtered despite the light spells they spam to tick off enemies.

But there’s also the passive Threat generation needed. Grandmaster of Mountains adds 200% additional Threat. I’m currently wearing the Fabricator’s Bracers with its sister gauntlets for 20% more. Epic destinies can help here later as I grow.

Balance

Lynn has a high Balance to get her back on her feet if knocked down. Items can help here as required. Again, Unyielding Sentinel could help here with Standing Against the Tide core destinies and supporting effects. To mitigate damage if knocked down is the Shintao enhancement Instinctive Defense to ward off up to 25% damage if helpless. Blocking while down is important, too.

Weapons

Handwraps are Lynncletica’s central weapon but she holds on to some Metalline aligned kamas to add slashing damage, as well as a Snowstar to lure enemies closer. I’m looking forward to using some of the recent new wraps such as Storm’s Harness.

Gameplay

Tanking only works when a party wants one around. Some parties will have players that just zerg ahead and gather aggro like there’s no tomorrow. By the time you’re able to aid in rescue, the player has either zapped most of what would have killed him or has died.

Or I’ll aggro a group and find out I’m over my head. Most of the time, Lynn holds to her Little Mountain title, enduring and outlasting many enemies. But champions and Legendary levels are game-changing. I’m totally pessimistic that even a fully-trained and equipped Lynncletica will survive a sword blow from Sor’jek atop the mountain summit in Legendary Tempest’s Spine, after I’ve watched so many others that have died to that attack.

But maybe others have missed something. Maybe I’ll find that something.

Netheril Here Nor There

Walking into Mordor: Not recommended without the monastic art.

Walking into Mordor: Not recommended without the monastic arts.

“Hi. My name is Syn, and I’m an alti-holic.”

(Hi, Syn!)

Since time is very limited for me with concentrating on a number of real-life tasks, I’m going to steer the blog back to its primary focus: The Monk class and what can be done with them. I will get back to the adventurers of Ranger Artemistika, Assassin Sukitetica and Swashbuckler Flynncletica soon. These characters not only round out my work in defining the sneak-happy classes to better document the Stormreach Shadows stealth guide, but are damned fun to play under the right conditions, especially Misty.

By “right conditions,” I mean that they tend to die a lot easier than the weakest of my Monks when in the wrong conditions.

I’ve actually missed being able to dance through the deadliest traps in the game like a drunken elf prancing through a meadow of flowers in springtime. It’s been a bit since I can stare down any enemy that tries something as mundane as a Fear spell or since I could take several Meteor Swarms to the face without issue and return the favor in a flurry of elemental strikes.

For even my most versatile non-Monk characters, one does not simply walk into Mordor. And DDO presents a lot of “Mordors” for unwitting players to enter unprepared.

But for my best Monks, they sometimes make a habit of daily runs into the Mordor de jour, punching and kicking and puncturing and poisoning seven shades of piss out of anything in their way.

This blog is primarily about Monks, so when time is at a crunch, that’s where the focus must be.

Let’s catch up on Ryncletica, the Poison Master and a little bit on Lynncletica, the Little Mountain tanker.

My Favorite Enemy

The Netherese have had a special place in my gamer heart since my old Neverwinter Nights days in trying to stop some loony from reactivating old Netheril magitek. My appreciation of the DDO Netherese is quite happy with three adventure chains: “The High Road” (get back a Nether Scroll), “Wheloon Prison” (get back yet another Nether Scroll) and the super-epic Storm Horns adventures, which left Szyncletica in awe.

Yet, I’ve not completed any of these adventures as often as I’d like, and so Ryncletica is starting to work on this. She’s completed all of her missions in the prison-turned Netherese outpost, and is after the Shade leader in “Through a Mirror Darkly.”

Ryncletica sits on level 16 now with increasingly strong DPS and durability that allow solo Elite missions most of the time. I could use a bit more DEX for damage/to-hit. I’m being cautious and only putting her through Hard difficulties as I make a more thorough study of each quest before returning to them on Elite difficulty. I’ve also desired to complete the Explorer locations in this forsaken place.

None of the Wheloon Prison quests allow for complete stealth. “Friends in Low Places” is all-combat, as is “A Lesson in Deception” and especially “Thrill of the Hunt” and those irritating Howlers. “Army of Shadow” does allow a bit of stealth ops to bypass or control much of the fighting.

Remembering long-ago travels in the overshadowed Oldstone Hall, I hoped to use shadow against shadow with Ryncletica’s strong ninja powers.

The many Shadow creatures that appear often don’t if you are stealthy enough, which helped a bit while making my way through “Thrill” and “Army.”

Ryncletica’s now able to use two Envenomed Blades, but chooses to hold only one of those blades in the main hand and her trust Tiefling Assassin’s Blade in the off-hand. The Wounding effect weakens from it while the advanced Poison and paralysis of the Envenomed Blade make a potent two-handed attack posture. Two Envenomed Blades weren’t bad but, lacking the Wounding effect reduces the chance for better use of the dark finishing moves.

She’s also trained Shadow Double for a doublestrike DPS burst for tougher enemies, and Quivering Palm makes for quick-kills as I make my way through otherwise-empty halls.

A Build Change for Ryn

I abandoned the use of the Harper tree to build up melee power for now. The AP cost didn’t reflect any significant advantages in damage at this time. Further, that AP has helped both Drow and Ninja Spy trees to boost their damage or defenses. Ambidexterity from the Drow tree, or Sneak Attack or completing the Ninjutsu training (right up to Touch of Death) is back on the table.

I’ll certainly revisit melee power boosts as Ryn returns to Epic levels, specifically with Shadowdancer and Epic leveling’s boosts to melee power. She’ll need to get Primal Avatar trained enough for Rejuvenation Cocoon for greater healing options.

In Oldstone Hall

The mission went pretty well. With one hireling, the lovely-rendered Favored Soul Althea as passive backup and parked for 90% of the mission, I sneaked through the light and dark sides of the hall. The narrow halls made it a challenge to avoid what few patrols existed. Despite this, I was able to obtain two or three of the orbs without combat by way of ninja stealth.

On the final fight, I took a tip from the wiki: Don’t follow the shade continually back and forth from the light and dark sides. I concentrated on delivering Ninja Poison DoTs on the boss, which left him still taking damage while he phased out and I concentrated on mopping up any Shadar-Kai or other minions that materialized.

As a quest chain, I enjoy Wheloon Prison, but it is probably my least favorite of the three Netherese missions. The High Road quests take second (I love its wilderness and the respawn rate that can let you hunt there for hours), but the Storm Horns remain the pinnacle of the Netherese missions and, in my opinion, the most beautiful and well-designed and story-immersive story lines in the game. I’m looking forward to getting Ryn to the Storm Horns, but not without a party. You don’t solo those quests without a lot of firepower.

Lynncletica’s Heeljing

I couldn’t end this quick post without geeking out about Update 24’s adjustment in healing amplification.

No one appears to be complaining a bit on the forums with the change. The new formula has dramatically improved the vampiric healing of Fists of Light for Lynn. In Earth Stance with the Jidz-Tet’ka bracers on (no amp in that stance) and with 3 Shintao cores, I’m seeing 2-4 HP per strike. Kick on Fire Stance and it jumps to 2-6, if not more.

Lynn needs the new format. I’ve been pushing her through early quests on Elite. Like her first life, early levels are a bloody mess for her, easily taking punishing damage with weak saves for what miss-chance effects are up for her. At level 9, Lynn is fit and fighting but has to manage aggro oh so carefully.

Power Slaying: Szyncletica at Endgame

I thought I’d make some final screen captures of Szyncletica the star-thrower as she approaches level capstone in her first life. She’s L26 at the time I write this, and may likely reach L28 before Christmas if I still haven’t looted or crafted the essentials I think she needs for Life 2.0.

As noted before, this is a very powerful build that can take down single enemies well and do surprisingly well against mobs with the right shuriken. In fact, I have one of those “right shurikens,” getting lucky to get an Improved Paralyzing Level 20 spelltouched star. With Improved Precise Shot (IPS), she’s a very effective one-man crowd controller in some Epic adventures.

This is one character I’m looking forward to reincarnating with glee. It’s fun to play at all levels, and she will only get stronger, although I’m pondering my options for her weakest point.

Dragons

One of my first tastes of how good Szyn would be involved a foray into “Mired in Kobolds.” At the end, you encounter Valrath, a young black dragon. If you want all the treasure in that area, you can stick around to take out his much tougher mother, Sinvala.

Animated illustration of circlestrafing. The b...

Animated illustration of circlestrafing. The blue player circlestrafes counterclockwise around his red adversary, firing continually as he does so. Red, unable to keep track of the moving blue, misses with most all shots. Blue is at an advantage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One thing I learned about many dragons is that they aren’t immune to poison. Szyn’s fighting style on dragons, given their relative size and difficulty in turning,  is basically circle strafing: (1) run around the enemy, (2) pelt them with debilitating stars and accumulate poison damage, (3) repeat until dead.

I was level 16 going into a Normal run on this, so I didn’t do anything especially “epic” except to survive a dragon. They spin and try to chase you, often spewing a nasty dragon breath of acid.

Because of their bulk, however, they aren’t as fast in chasing if you’re fast enough. By spinning about, the larger dragon cannot turn quite fast enough to hit you with their breath. Depending on the size of the area, you should be able to run without evading obstacles. In this quest, Valrath has a small group of paragon kobold fighters and shamans as well as the unstable power crystals that throw damage, and there are briar patches.

Being a ranged fighter with lots of Dodge and Improved Evasion, I stood my ground and immediately removed the crystals before beginning my run. I didn’t have to quite target the kobolds. They eventually got into my throwing pattern at the dragon and IPS removed them.

Szyn-vs-SinvalaValrath was my match at 16. Then I stayed about for Sinvala, who comes in at CR21 on Normal. She got the same treatment but much larger poison damage, often reaching 75 per tick.

As for touch healing, circle strafing works because the hireling is busy trying to chase you around and thus tends to stay out of immediate danger since the dragon is focused on the damage dealer–you. Occasionally I’d cut across the dragon’s flank to get a quick heal from my hireling (in this case, Isadora the Cleric) and then continue my circling.

I’ll likely go back in to see how I do against the CR30 mama dragon on Elite, while being 4 or so levels below her at around L26. Only Lynncletica has beaten Sinvala on Elite–and she’s a tanking Shintao with far greater defenses than Szyn.

A more recent adventure was in Epic Normal “Don’t Drink the Water,” where Szyn entered at L24 against CR27 Tharmalos, a green dragon that loves his poison breath. Strange that he’s not immune from poison, either.

Szyn-vs-TharmalosI attacked him the same way as with Sinvala: circle strafing. After a point, the area’s floor breaks up into pools of acid, so I’ve developed a third-eye, as it were, jumping while strafing to avoid the holes.

Against Tharmalos and his tendency to try to pounce on you like a 12,000 pound rabid kitten with a serious case of mange, standing still at any time against him was unwise.

So, in summary, Szyn’s speed, evasiveness and miss-chance, combined with firepower, makes her a fierce dragon slayer. Thankfully, the game offers a wide area to fight when dragons appear, be it in “Mired,” the epic Gianthold wilderness or the raid “Fall of Truth.” Else, she’d be a chew toy.

Bosses

If dragons can be felled, smaller bosses shouldn’t a huge issue in general. The problem here is typically maneuvering room. The smaller the corridor or room, the tighter circles I have to spin, and the more likely that a boss will chase me. Often here, their lair is too small and I collide with everything, forcing me to move the fight out of an area or use another tactic.

In solo play, my hirelings never out-do my damage rate and so keeping Threat is always a problem.

Since most bosses aren’t large or stay still, the attack pattern goes from circle strafing to kiting the enemy in solo play. I let them chase me but always stay ahead of them while continuing my barrage. This works very well against spell casters that sometimes cannot deal their most damaging spells due to my poison-dotting as well as any other Shiradi effects that interrupt their concentration. Distance is key against fighters as Drow hit with poison of their own as well as dangerous critical hits.

Unlike my melee Monks, Szyn has got away with just using her non-epic White Dragonscale Robe and adding a modest 110% fortifying set of gloves into the mix for Epic play. She just got a Blurry item to help with attacks so she’s more untouchable but can withstand a hit or two without serious complications. I’ve been farming for a Shimmering Arrowhead in “The Weapons Shipment” with no joy and imminent chest ransacking. I’m not reincarnating before I have this and one or two Green Steel weapons in her arsenal.

Shroud fighting is good for Szyn as she can hold still with Archer’s Focus to concentrate damage on the static Harry in part 4, sidestepping as required to avoid the occasional meteor. In part 5, she lets the melees engage for a moment and then attacks from a long way away, always keeping one of the melee fighters between her and Harry as a way to keep him from immediately breaking in a run towards her position.

When not strafing, the challenge is to stay out of melee range, keep enough miss-chance effects up to minimize ranged damage and not to kite enemies too far from their lair to avoid rubber-banding them back to their start, fully healed and more dangerous than when you had better health and buffs.

Poison, poison, poison. I can’t say enough on the positives of this dot effect. Slashing damage from the stars now confirm for me what Szyn is best at: Killing non-demonic, non-undead, non-construct hordes.

Weaknesses

Starting off at low level, mobs aren’t too good to encounter. With IPS, it’s less of a bother. But there are some things I just can’t take down very well.

Undead giant skeletons. They need the best bludgeoning DR and my slashing attacks with shuriken just don’t do it. Even with the vaunted Morning Star and using Shiradi stance “Stay Good,” I give limited damage. So much for any Subterrane trips until I get that Greater Disrupting Green Steel star completed.

Golems and living constructs. Without a smiting shuriken, it’s tough going on constructs. I began work on Elite runs in the Cannith Manufactury for the three quests there. In “Power Play,” it wasn’t too bad in using the spelltouched stars for damage. But in the end fight, the continuous respawns and awkward kiting I had to do became too complex and I died from Steelthorn’s team. I don’t have an answer for these guys through any named or high-crafting option at present. I could only craft up a Holy Adamantine Greater Construct Bane star to use on them and planar portals in the Shroud. I hate artificers. They really use Lightning Motes nowadays to stun very effectively since Update 19. It’s not impossible for a smiting shuriken to be generated, I think. It’s just that the damn weapons overall don’t show up as often in loot generation, much less higher-end stars with great properties.

Demons and devils. If there are only a few individuals, it’s not a problem. When mobs show up, Szyn’s inability to poison them and their DR requirements (Good) limit the use of Epic Destiny options in Shiradi. I appreciate the “Stay Good” stance to add no-damage Good alignment to weapons. But this won’t work against pit fiends and horned devils. Perhaps paradoxically, while its harder to remove demonic mobs, my Shocking Burst Silver of Pure Good star easily robs these bosses of their life. Go figure.  A better Green Steel Mineral II star is in the works. Szyn held her own quite well in an Epic Normal “Devil Assault” run with a couple of hirelings to light-tank. Even got a Shard of Great Power for my troubles. I’ll have two or three more runs there before Szyn is ready for her second life, in so far as needed Tokens of the Twelve, at least.

The Near Future

I’ve been organizing more guild Shroud runs that seem to be appreciated. Just had one last night (at the time of this post) and I think I finally have all the materials required to fully craft my Greater Disruption star. With maybe another run or two, the Mineral or Ice II will be next.

I see myself skipping the Demonweb quests this time around since getting XP isn’t the issue, but the right gear. Self-piking a Heroic series of Wheloon Prison quests to pick up more useful mid-level gear as well as Heroic Gianthold for similar items attracts me more. I’m even considering doing several Eveningstar challenges to build at least one more low-end spelltouched star to add to the next life’s arsenal, or encouraging a few guildmates to help me run the Cannith Challenges for a Frozen Tunic

In addition to the necessary Shroud runs, I’m looking more at epic Gianthold for thinking ahead to building an Epic White Dragonscale Robe and getting the matching helm. That means joining PuGs of “Fall of Truth.” My guild’s rather conservative on Epic and raid play compared to some,  and I’m less likely to join a PuG, so I haven’t gotten out there much.

There’s also the matter of survival. Three emergency recharges of Healing Spring isn’t cutting it for sustained battle play where rests or places to hide to use Wholeness of Body are possible, such as a raid. While Szyn has some of the best DPS, she has the worst healing amplification of my characters–practically zero. Often this isn’t a problem since her fighting style allows her to stay far away from melee attacks and dodge or evade many magic and missile attacks. But in the Shroud, the Whirling Blades eat her alive, especially on Elite. I got smacked with 50-100 point ticks, and only the character’s speed avoided a nastier fate.

I’ll spend some PDK commendations for some Purple Dragon Knight Gauntlets before reincarnating but I need a better battle healing option. My usual alternative for my Monks, vampirism, can’t work on ranged attacks, which is all that Szyn is able to do in effective fighting.

After re-reading the Shradi Shuricannon thread once more on things I’ve might have missed, I’ll realize now I will have to bear disabling Shiradi for a time and start training a bit in Primal Avatar for Rejuvenation Cocoon and a little more health. Unlike the build specification, I don’t think I trained anything in Shintao Monk to gain 10% amplification, and it’s a bit late to worry about it now, given that I’m not planning on entering Szyn in anything in this life that requires it.

At the risk of sounding redundant, this is one reincarnation I’m looking very forward to doing, but I have to slow my excitement down and gear up for the next life while I can.

Update 20: The Half-Elf Inflatable Tank

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there's a difference between a light tank and a tank that's way too light.

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there’s a difference between a light tank and a tank that’s way too light.

Update: A poster noted that I was caught by Turbine Doublespeak Syndrome. The issue here would involve a Half-Elf (who gets the racial abilities of Improved Recovery, no matter the class) who takes Monk levels and then chooses Half-Elf Dilettante  Monk and then attempts to use the Dilettante Special Ability selection to gain the identically-named Improved Recovery options from there. To avoid people gaining triple amping using the Shintao line, the devs restrict the Shintao line (since all the cores add 5%) if you try to get around this trick. This makes sense.

So ignore this rambling in the post, which I will leave as a testament to anyone who later tells me that I post and don’t admit to being wrong. I was wrong.

A quick note as we all peruse through the changes of Update 20.

I noticed new language in some enhancement trees, designed to keep players from wasting action points by choosing abilities that are redundant to or conflict with something else from their class feats or other enhancement tree. The developers call these “Antirequisites.”

One caught my eye right away: The first Shintao Monk ability, “Bastion of Purity,” has a disheartening new antirequisite: By taking it, you cannot choose Half-Elf Improved Recovery I or II abilities.

I took several sips of coffee this morning to figure out why the change was made.

Note that Update 19 reduced racial healing amplification options to only Humans and Half-Elves, and left what was the old “Monk Improved Recovery” boosts split up into the Shintao core enhancements. Taking all Shintao cores will give you 30% amplification. If you aren’t either of these races, racial healing amplification is closed to you.

Frankly, this means that only a Human and their three tiers of Improved Recovery get the maximum healing amplification as a Shintao Monk. Half-Elves cannot use their options, even if they favor their human side, if I read this change correctly and didn’t miss other adjustments.

The only reason I could fathom to this change is that Half-Elf dilettantes, particularly the Cleric one, allows self-healing through wands and scrolls. Maybe the combined use of racial improved recovery and the dilettante seemed overpowered to the developers when used by Shintao characters.

As it is, my two Half-Elves are all Ninja Spies anyway. Both have maxed their racial Improved Recovery but also can use wands and scrolls for healing and buffing. They all rely on stealth and miss chance effects to reduce damage and do not lead a party except to scout.

Lynncletica is fated to be only a Human since she requires the maximum available healing amp that can only come from being a human Shintao Monk. Same is true for Syncletica, although I have some thoughts on her fate for a third life.

If you have a Half-Elf Shintao Monk, you’ll likely see a message indicating that your enhancements have been partially or fully reset. Sorry.

What annoys me is that the Shintao enhancement tree favors Mountain Stance too strongly. I love that the tree works as a tanking stance. But there are different ways to assist in light tanking and maximum defense isn’t necessarily the only way. We Monks survive by using ki and not plate and gear to regenerate ourselves.

My newest Monk, a Drow, has no healing amplification (save equipping her Jidz-Tet’ka bracers and using Fire Stance). But she’s a slippery devil with lots of miss-chance that is increasingly hard to hit, anyway.

If you’ve seen any other nerfing of enhancements, especially if they’re Monk related and/or have affected your characters, drop me a line.

Update: If you’re the kind of reader that reads only the end of a post, go back to the start. This only affects a specific min-max attempt by taking a dilly of the same class you that you are.