The Return of the Thwacky-Stick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Offensive Changes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive Changes

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

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

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

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

General Stance and Feat Changes

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

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

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

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

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

Weapons

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

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

Gear

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

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

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

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

 

 

Mystical Return

I’ve been pretty gloomy-gus about some of the changes to the Monk enhancements lately. I don’t want people to misinterpret my criticisms as a “DOO00M!!!1” or anti-Turbine skeed, however.

You play a game for its positive effect on you. It may be of little surprise that I didn’t want to play all that much on that day when the handwraps were made into weapons.

The problem is still serious enough to keep discussing what to do about it, short- or long-term. So, several monastics in my dojo prayed and contemplated.

Creeping Death of Your Handwraps

I was in a party last night on Legendary Elite in “Creeping Death.” Yeah, the quest with lots and lots and lots of oozes. I joined one Shintao Monk in the fight. He had virtually destroyed over 4 sets of handwraps before the quest was over. Because these oozes were around CR60-ish, removing his wraps and effecting any damage worth a damn wasn’t an option.

Since the update, I have been grinding every bit of loot I could to make Cannith Essences to work on boosting my crafting levels. Today, at level 233, with a 35% crafting booster, I reached a 75% chance to craft what I needed: an Everbright shard. I could only make minimum level 25 shards safely, but this balances out the weapon for earlier use.

I love the new crafting system, by the way. It’s inherently more expensive than its predecessor, but the process saves a lot of calculations and makes the process much more understandable. Since items are bound to account, you don’t have that nagging worry of forgetting something that could craft items for a character that won’t use that item.The variations, damage, or effects you have available are also striking.

Speaking of striking, here is the result I made for Lynncletica.

everbrightwraps

However, I have spent dozens of hours in the crafting hall to reach a level where I could make Everbright shards. New Monks won’t be so fortunate.

GamerGeoff acknowledged that the change is more true to lore as well as game mechanics. He suggested that Monks do what other classes do against oozes: Wield a Muckbane.

I vetoed the thought in a reply, but, just in case, I checked. The Ninja Spy’s update included making any weapon you could wield as gaining DEX-to-Damage. So I borrowed my only Muckbane from my Rogue for Ryncletica the Poison Master to hold as a test.

The test failed. While Monks have weapon proficiency in clubs, the Muckbane uncenters her. We lose all our monastic powers.

So the secondary options are (1) fight completely unarmed, removing handwraps or (2) use another weapon, and carry more handwraps or other weapons as they break to the oozes and rust monsters.

I neglected to say what Monk I brought into the “Creeping Death” run.

My Henshin Mystic, Quintessica, has returned to active status.

Some Light in the Shadow

Quintessica was first built back during the older enhancement format, before the trees. She was designed to wield all four elemental stances. During that time, it was very costly to master all the stances, but I was in an “Avatar: The Last Airbender” mood, and she was fun to play.

With the new enhancement trees, everyone got the complete stances. Quintessica became one of the new Henshin Mystics and collected a boatload of quarterstaves.

While initially interesting to play, the lack of defense and speed slowed and soon stopped my enjoyment of Quintessica as she reached epic play. She’s been sitting at level 23 for over two years before she came out of retirement last night.

In the ooze-filled dungeon of “Creeping Death.” A level 23 character in a level 33 quest.

Wielding a Dreamspitter.

Dreamspitter.jpg

It’s not the most optimal Epic quarterstaff that’s immune to rust or ooze damage (that’s her sister staff from “The Fall of Truth,” the Dreampiercer). But it did the job.

More interesting was how Quintessica functioned in fighting. With a weaker weapon I didn’t expect much. I didn’t expect her to survive at all, really, because she hasn’t Rejuvenation Cocoon available yet, so ki and potion healing was all that she had as things tried to kill her

But after beating up a bit of ooze rather decently, I looked at Quinn’s character sheet.

Her base melee power was 102.

That’s an insane level of power boost for level 23.

I also took Cleave, Great Cleave and Whirlwind Attack. She sits inside her Cauldron of Flame circle and spams each one almost continually.

And after ensuring my party had Death Ward, I kept using Every Light Casts a Shadow to cause additional negative levels on top of any that the Dreamspitter (the original “woo-woo stick”) added.

Quintessica has the same problem as other Monks in terms of serious weapon damage against oozes in her next life’s early days until she can wield that crystal staff. I did scrounge up an old level 8 Everbright staff I saved for her to use a little later.

Quinn is woefully under-geared and under-trained. So, from what I’ve seen last night, I think she needs a bit of time out to see what she can really do with the new tree updates, as well as level and gear up a bit. Based on several great reports from Teacher Vladrich on the Mystic, I’m feeling a little encouraged about things.

 

 

Update 33: The Promised Land

I did get Lammania up earlier in the week to explore the changes for the Monk class with Update 33. I played around with copies of my Zen Archer, Poison Master and Shintao. Things looked promising for the very brief time I was able to play there.

Now that the official release notes are up as the game is updating today, I realized I missed some little bits of information from my last post that should make most Monks in general rather happy. Listed from awesome to meh:

  • In all three trees, Elemental Ki strikes have been changed. Eagle Claw Attack now applies four stacks, and stacks to 15. Knock on the Sky reduces enemy physical damage by 4% per stack. Unbalancing Strike is now +3[w].

I use Unbalancing Strike (counted as a Water move) often with the Poison Master to quickly charge up Freezing the Lifeblood paralyzing move. Doesn’t look like Fists of Iron has changed from its +3[W] damage, +1 critical threat range, and +1 Critical Damage Multiplier.

  • The Fire finisher Breath of the Fire Dragon now scales with 2x Melee Power.

This change will certainly help in damage against Plant and ice-based enemies.

  • Each Ninjutsu ability in Ninja Spy now also grants +1 to hit and damage with weapons other than a quarterstaff or handwraps when centered.

A welcome change for my Poison Master and for the stealth-master Kiricletica. Kiri’s still around but my Zen craze has been keeping my attention. I’ll update you on her progress with these new changes and perhaps put Kiri through more solo stealth work with newer content.

  • Iron Skin now works regardless of your chosen stance.
  • Iron Skin’s third rank now grants +20 PRR when centered.

Last night I was playing with Lynncletica’s PRR just before another Deathwyrm. She generally sat around 139. Then I added in a Legendary Planar Compass, then Twisted in the Grandmaster of Flowers Standing with Stone for 15 additional and Primal Avatar’s Ephemeral Evolution for up to 15 more when attacked. As I completed that change, my Legendary feat Scion of Limbo moved to give me another 30 PRR. And then I added in the Antipode/Planar Conflux 15 PRR bonus.

I had around 177 PRR for a hot minute.The update to Iron Skin will make things more hot.

  • Grandmaster of Flowers now grants handwrap proficiency in its first Core Ability.

Might have mentioned this one, but it’s still great. Gives our non-Monks something to look forward to doing as they level up that destiny.

  • Fury Eternal and Unbridled Fury now explicitly say they work with ranged weapons.

The monkchers are vindicated.

When I used Unbridled Fury one time with Pynthetica in a “Defiler of the Just” run against the end-boss, my reaction to the immense DPS boost was not too different from Egon using his proton thrower for the first time in Ghostbusters: Complete amazement.

egon_gb1

  • Handwraps have gained +10 Hardness and +80 Maximum Durability.

Since handwraps are weapons now, does this mean that they also become damaged from oozes and rust monsters? Let’s hope not. Handwraps should have an inherent Everbright property. We shouldn’t lose, as parties or individual Monks, a way to remove oozes through a melee fighter. Monks can’t equip Muckbane clubs without becoming uncentered, and quarterstaves are nearly worthless in the hands of anyone but a Mystic.

UPDATE: In very early play in Update 33 live, I entered “Creeping Death,” where oozes abound. My wraps are suffering tremendous damage. I’ve reported this as a bug already. This is unacceptable as I haven’t any other “weapons” to use as a Shintao and there are absolutely no “Everbright” handwraps as that would’ve been unnecessary pre-Update 33.

SECOND UPDATE: Cordovan’s response in a thread I opened reporting this states this change is working as intended. New players are going to get screwed for repair costs as oozes are plentiful in early content. Everbright handwraps haven’t dropped for ages with various loot prefix/suffix changes. And you’ll need at least 250 bound/400 unbound skill to craft Everbright handwraps. I normally roll with the punches (no pun intended) with game changes that are challenging, but this one makes so little sense I will not be surprised that fewer Monks appear.

  • Stunning Fist now specifically requires Handwraps to use.

Is this “problem” still going on? If you aren’t a Monk, you should be using Stunning Blow or, better, Shield Bash. I’ve seen one friend shield-bash about as fast as I could use Stunning Fist, and it was most impressive.

  • Planar Shards, Outsider Tokens, and Draconic Runes now properly go into bags.

Totally not specific to Monks, but yay, more storage space freed up.

  • Demon Assault no longer respawns enemies after the end chest is opened.

That’s welcome. In that quest, the reavers and renders were almost impossible to manage while you’re trying to loot, assess and trade items from the chest.

  • Six new Deity options are available for Clerics, Paladins, and Favored Souls at their first level. These are analogous to the existing Deity feats and abilities.

Again, not Monk-related. But I’m fond of this change because of my long love of the D&D based Neverwinter Nights games. There, your clerics got a lot of extra bonuses with their deity alignments. Further, if you’re going to have clerics and other divine fighters in the game, leaving out these elements seemed to make gameplay rather odd in terms of roleplay, especially since many NPCs had deity alignments.

  • Festivult Abishai Cookies work as a set again.

That explains my abortive attempt to use the five cookies with Paracleta for a stacking +4 to WIS while running a Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine. I’ll be running lots of stuff to get more of these cookies in the future.

  • Critical Multiplier bonuses now work on Thrown weapons.

That bug keeps being fixed and broken over several updates. My old Shuricannon relies on better modifiers for higher damage, so this is welcome. However, conversations on the forums suggest this isn’t the complete fix.

  • Monk’s Moment of Clarity finishing move feat tooltip now properly states that it is a stacking bonus, rather than an Insight bonus.

Hardly relevant since you’d have to be a Mystic (where the only Void attack exists to activate the finisher) to use it. I mentioned this last time because there’s no reason I know not to have a simple Void Strike feat added back into the game for non-Mystics to use this finisher and its dark version once more.

I will try to forget what I’ve known about the Mystic and give it another try soon. I’ve learned more on defense options and the game has evolved significantly over several updates to provide options I hadn’t had available when the first Mystics arrived.

 

 

Update 33 Beta: Seen It, Still Working on Believing

scales

Cordovan was banking on completing Update 33 on Legendary Elite, solo, armed with only a Club of the Holy Flame, when he posted on Twitch TV a preview of the update’s expected changes recently. Teacher Saekee showed another thread with a clearer view of Cordovan’s notes.

They’re all expected live (per Cordovan’s forum update on the matter, not the video) around Wednesday, October 12 on Lammania.

Since I dominantly play the Monk class, I’m sure a few folks want my take on it. I had some early reservations about expected changes. Now that there’s public, official but beta release notes, I can speak up.

The problem is that the changes are rather comprehensive and numerous, so I’ll concentrate on how they affect what builds I have and come back to finer points as they apply.

Changes to my Shintao Monks

Lynncletica and Syncletica will see their handwraps change into a type of Exotic weapon, with 1d6 as their starting damage.

I don’t know if a completely unarmed (that is, not wearing handwraps) Monk still sees damage through their hands in the current way.

Any DR bypassing provided by the enhancements for unarmed Monks will apply through the new handwraps.

It’s not clear to me why this change was made, save for increasing possible damage and to provide the option to make Green Steel handwraps. I find the latter answer a load of malarkey since several quest chains now create handwraps from ingredients, Thunder-Forged handwraps included. Why the Shroud’s building mechanic didn’t follow the same principle has always confused me.

Stances get a few changes. For starters, the +1 critical hit multiplier in the upper Mountain stances move to the Fire Stances. I guess this is logical as Fire Stance increases STR, which is the attack modifier, so greater damage will come from this change. The downside (and a balance I approve) is that higher damage is offset by a reduction in WIS if using Fire Stance. Lynn will still use Mountain Stance as a guardian for its protections but this does invite a new build that punches harder than any other.

Ocean Stance’s Dodge bonuses are enhanced to 3,6.9 and 12%. This change is weird. It’s ridiculously easy to add Dodge to a Monk. I would’ve rather seen increases to all saves in a similar scale.

Wind Stance received no changes to its bonuses to Doublestrike or attack speed or defenses. Syncletica remains a glass cannon.

“Form Ki” moves are mentioned. I presume we’re speaking of the elemental strikes. These attacks are scaled by Melee Power. I’m fond of this as it encourages people to use finishers and elemental attacks, if my presumption is right. Likewise, elemental strikes scale with melee power, and provides me with similar confusion.

And attack-based finishers deliver 1[w] damage. Not bad.

As well, Fists of Light itself delivers 0.5[w], 4d6 Light damage, and overall damage, including Vorpal-calculated strikes, scale with Melee Power. Nice news when bashing skeletons and others more effectively, especially since the Monk’s Bludgeoning damage is resisted by many enemies.

Vorpal Strike now works with handwraps. It wasn’t working before? Thankfully I haven’t bothered to use this feat lately, and there are Vorpal handwraps, anyway.

Some other cool changes: Shining Star, the Otto’s finisher of Earth/Wind/Fire (get it?) will use WIS and not CHA as its modifier. A new build idea just dawned in my head immediately, although this finisher is granted only at level 20. It would’ve been nice if the feat’s minimum level was lowered to 12 or 15. Similarly, the remote stun enhancement Kukan-do will also use WIS and not CHA for it’s DC.

Some great news for Lynn’s healing: Healing Ki now heals 1d4 per Monk level, instead of per 2 levels. 

Lastly, in the “WTF!? You’re Confusing Us!” category is “Moment of Clarity.” The description says that it’s “bonuses now stack (a former Insight bonus).”

What the devs may be forgetting (and have since the initial enhancement change) is there are two Moments of Clarity in-game. The release notes clearly mention the Harper Agent enhancement’s ability to increase tactical and spell DCs by +10 for ten seconds.

The original Moment of Clarity was a granted Monk feat, a finishing move (Light/Void/Light: Bonuses to attack rolls and skill checks to nearby allies). It’s been all but permanently broken ever since the Void Strike feat was removed with the first enhancement pass and placed in a remarkably useless tier 5 enhancement when the Henshin Mystic enhancements arrived years ago. Removing Void Strike also broke the Ninja Spy’s charming finisher, Curse of the Void.

Can we PLEASE get a Lesser Void Strike feat restored to reactivate the Moment of Clarity (and the dark Monk’s Curse of the Void) finishers without having to train a Mystic? Please? It doesn’t have to even cause more than 1 point of Force damage. Just restore that finisher with a simple optional feat, or rip it out of the granted feats. It’s tiresome to see something we cannot use–and, based on the notes, making Mystics will still not be worth it to me to get Void Strike or play them in general (more later).

More Shintao specific changes in their tree begin with +1 to-hit and attack for each trained Elemental Curative. Similarly to changes in the Ninja Spy’s tier 5 Ninjutsu, you no longer need to train all Elemental Curatives to get Rise of the Phoenix, the self-resurrection ability. Switching places with Phoenix is Empty Hand Mastery, which changes from a die damage of 1d6 to 1d8 to a +1 Competence bonus to critical hit modifier and threat range.

The defensive PRR boosting Iron Skin works for any stance. A small win for Wind Stancers like Syncletica and Ocean Stancers like the Zen archers and the Poison Master. Likewise, Violence Begets Violence also works for any stancean additional concession to make the Shintao tree give less favoritism to tanking.

The fourth Shintao core, Touch the Void Dragon, now becomes an untyped stacking bonus to all ability scores, and the final core enhancement, To Seek Perfection, goes from +2 to +4 WIS.

The changes to the Tainted strikes confuse me in terms of role play (the Shintao specialized in damaging any Outsider), but I can live with the adjustments. All abilities that affected Tainted creatures now affect all enemies, including the ability to encase any enemy in jade and debuff anything with Jade Strike, Tomb of Jade and Smite Tainted Creature. The change is like giving Rangers a Favored Enemy range to “everything,” but who am I to judge?

Lastly, Meditation of War’s effects will now become untyped and stack with similar effects.

Changes to the Poison Master, Zen Archer and Bowmaster

The Zen Archer build I put together (as well as her opposite, the Zen Bowmaster) are based in part on elements from the Ninja Spy tree. Of course, the melee Poison Master is wholly ninja.

My largest worry in the rumored enhancements were that the devs would make changes to the one tree that was generally versatile and perfect out of the gate in the first pass. The Zen Archer and the Poison Master are based on some items from teacher Firewall’s original Shuricannon. The Bowmaster has only a “splash” of Ninja Spy for use of its Shadow Veil incorporeality but is primarily a Elven Arcane Archer that really loves a recent enhancement pass update there.

Thankfully, what changes I read for the ninjas seem not only acceptable, but very welcome.

For Ryncletica the sword wielder, the Fists of Darkness’ effects now scale with Melee Power.

There were several incomplete notes about changes to basic finishing moves. Using Cordovan’s notes, I think I can guess what’s to be changed.

The Gathering Storm and Raging Sea finishers has had their WIS DC modifiers raised from 10 + WIS modifier to 15. These aren’t commonly used finishers, even by me.

Replacing the rather underwhelming Crippling Strike enhancement (which did the same  as the Rogue version) in tier 5 Ninja Spy is the new Deadly Striker. With any weapon other than handwraps or quarterstaves, you gain +1 to critical hit modifier range, with kamas and shuriken get double the bonus. Yay for both Shuricannons and Saekee’s hyper-crit-range Forester’s Brush Hook build. (Most of the Ninja Spy changes affect all weapons except the new handwraps and quarterstaves.)

The ninja also gets a tier 2 Action Boost to Melee and Ranged Power. Happiness for all the builds I use, especially the Zen Archer, which is all about Ranged Power.

It kept getting better to be ninja. The first and second core enhancements, Ninja Training and Advanced Ninja Training, now apply to ANY weapon (again, except handwraps and staves) you can use while Centered.

This is BIG for the Zen builds as this means that neither absolutely require the Elf for the Grace enhancement to deliver Dexterity-to-Damage for longbows (but still needs the racial tree for weapon proficiency), and also means you can get these bows working far earlier in the build’s life. I’d still likely recommend Elf for weapon proficiency, the extra training available there to longbow damage, Dragonmarks for Displacement, and Doubleshot. But this changes saves a few Action Points you can reapply in other trees.

And here’s an obscure bonus I see as a benefit of this change. There is a singular named weapon that’s not a kama, shuriken, handwrap, quarterstaff or bow that Monks can wield while staying Centered and without being a Kensei. It’s the Midnight Greetings kukri. Melee ninja such as Ryncletica can use them more effectively since DEX-to-Damage will be activated.

However, the Monk class’s Martial Weapon Proficiency includes only handaxes (something only the Kensei could use right now) by default, so a precious feat must be added for proficiency in this special kukri. While the Heroic weapon isn’t very special, the classic Epic version of the weapon can do some serious work in early Epic lives. Requiring the feat for proficiency may not be worth it, and goodness knows how hard it is to gather the seal, scroll and shard ingredients needed to make any classic Epic crafted item.

Ninja Poison now scales with Melee Power. I’ll really want to see how the Poison Master build will work with this change–it’s all about stacking Poison DoTs. The little-used Poisoned Darts gain more Poison per stack (1d8), but that’s still welcome.

Here’s more. The final core enhancement, Ninja Master, adds +2 DEX and +2 WIS, with +1 Competence bonuses critical hit changed from range to threat modifiers (except for handwraps or staves). I can imagine Saekee just fainted: His Brush Hook build may get a threat range of 10-20 now.

More happiness for the Poison Master, as Poison Exploit’s damage rises to 1d10+10 per Ninja Poison stack.

Also, the Touch of Death negative energy strike scales to 200% Melee Power, and no longer requires you to train the Ninjutsu components to get it. It’s still a tier 5 ability, but for those that don’t care for Ninjutsu, it’s a build option.

Very happy change to Shadow Double. While its stacking Doublestrike bonus was decreased from 100% to 50%, its duration is doubled to 12 seconds, gains 3[W] in damage and has a shorter 20 second cooldown.

And it keeps getting better. Matching the Rogue Assassin tree changes, Stealthy and Faster Sneaking are merged and require 3 AP to fully activate. Also, the melee threat reducing Subtlety will be moved from tier 2 to tier 1, while the Dodge cap, Concentration boosting Ability requires more commitment in Ninja Spy as it moves up to tier 2.

Last but not least, each tier of Ninjutsu is cheaper to activate, with just 1 AP, but also gives +1 to to-hit and damage with all Centered non-handwrap/quarterstaff weapon for each trained enhancement.

I was hoping the Ninja Spy wouldn’t be nerfed. A good thing will actually become better. Yay!

Changes to the Henshin Mystic: Disappointing

For every silver lining in the notes, however, there’s more ominous clouds looming in confusing and contradictory changes for the Henshin Mystic.

The biggest changes to the Mystic is the removal of Spell Power for its damage boost to its Fire and Force damage. Instead, all core enhancements grant a stacking equivalent of Melee Power bonus. This is confusing to me because, of all the Monk classes, the Mystic’s original design was to leverage ki offensively like no other. Instead, the changes simply add in passive offensive boosts to a class that was doing just fine when swinging the staff, but had limited means to weaponize ki when using it.

Here’s a confusing one from the notes, which I must assume is in error. Sounding Staff now gives +2 ki per hit (removing the Implement bonus for Spell Power) and grants the Quick Draw feat. Uh, doesn’t the Quick Draw feat grant increases to rate of fire for ranged and thrown  weapons, not attack speed to the Mystic’s primary weapon, the quarterstaff? Is this feat supposed to augment the Ki Bolt ranged attack, which also gets a boost per Monk level rather than every two levels?

(Update: Teacher Ziindarax, a member of the Player’s Council, corrected me on a mistake in the Ninja Spy tier 5 and noted the logic of Quick Draw. “Quick Draw does benefit weapons, but it’s also being buffed so that you can actually attack faster after casting a spell or spell-like ability. Presumably, this would mean (for example) that if you had a warlock that used the Eldritch Burst or Spirit Blast abilities, and then tried to use a regular attack immediately afterwards, you would not suffer that irritating delay between the SLA and your regular melee/ranged attack. Instead, you get to attack instantly. Just to answer the question posed in your article as to how Quick Draw would benefit a Henshin Mystic.”)

The last core enhancement, Serenity, no longer gives Spell Power-related effects, goes to +4 WIS and adds +25 Melee Power.

Still trying to make the old original Ninja Spy enhancements useful, each Elemental Word gains 2{W} and +2 stacks to Vulnerability per hit. I guess the Melee Power bonuses to the elemental ki strikes used here might make for some great boosts to total damage.

Also, Void Strike remains at tier 5, virtually inaccessible to any other Monk, but gains 3[W] and its Force damage scales to Melee Power.

Some AP reductions to Mystic Training and Embrace the Void (not “Voice” as shown in the notes), requiring 1 AP to train. Also, the damage bonuses to Focus stack with other sources.

Lastly, the complicated Every Light Casts a Shadow enhancement now delivers 1d2 negative levels immediately on-hit to surrounding enemies, and 1d4 to the target.

That’s it for the Mystic. No attack speed or defense improvements.Spell Power-based attacks such as Incinerating Wave and  Cauldron of Flame aren’t mentioned in terms of what damage they create since the Spell Power boosts are being ripped out of the tree. Worthless enhancements like Negotiator and Mystic Training still remain. And you’ll still need to splash a Rogue to gain attack speed bonuses or (cheaper) Shintao abilities for defense.

I loved the potential of the Mystic’s attack power (and gushed about it here long ago) but it still lacks highly important defenses as it generates a terrible amount of aggro and cannot withstand such damage as Shintao Monks can do. I don’t see myself returning or recommending the Mystic unless there’s a way to improve defense and attack speed without multiclassing or using excessive AP in other Monk trees.

Until then, my two Mystics remain bank characters.

What Do You Think?

If you could make suggestions to the devs (and I dare say you should try), what would you ask them to adjust for these proposed adjustments to the Monk enhancements?

While the Shintao changes are good, and the Ninja Spy unbelievably improved, the Mystic’s adjustment make little sense other than improving its “El Kabong” mentality and further distancing its potential ability to wield ki for greater offense, defense or speed.

Fire away in the comments here.

 

Vow of Poverty: Pretty Please, Devs?

desertI’m enjoying Syncletica in her hermit style as she moves to Level 5.

Teacher Saekee noted that the concept I’m doing is nothing new, and has a PnP concept.

It’s Vow of Poverty, based on D&D 3.5e rules. A number of sites discuss it: here is one that’s most detailed.

Given that Monks are likely to take this, there is much gnashing of teeth and wailing and lamentations of overpoweredness of this ability, even in the tabletop world. Boy, that sounds familiar.

I think Vow of Poverty would make for a great enhancement tree. The challenge would be how to implement it.

I see it this way. To even activate this proposed class tree, you cannot have any non-Monk levels, period.

Once you choose it, if you have spent any AP elsewhere (except in racial trees) the game forces you to reset that tree(s). You may only have the Poverty tree active and no other, including other Monk trees.

Once the tree is active, any weapon other than a quarterstaff or unarmed fighting uncenters you. So you don’t even get to use kamas. Or, you may choose a preferred weapon and use only that weapon (as well as unarmed fighting) without losing your center.

But how would we limit what is carried, or if clickies can be used? What about guild ship buffs or special House buffs?

The bonuses would be rich and stack with the normal Monk class leveled abilities, based on this version. They should also gain Deathblock as a granted feat and an SLA of Death Ward by level 16, or some greater ability to resist death spells better than almost any other class. Granted fortification bonuses as one levels. With optional training, more DR bypassing, too, as Shintaos gain.

Attempting to take any other class would cause the tree to disable and all AP removed, as well as the bonuses.

Would this be a harder class tree? It should. It would require a keen mind and advanced Monk skills, I think, to make this work. No multiclassing to twink your build. Higher weapon limits.

But I love this concept. I’d love to see this in Update 24 or 25. I will download the Lam client to lead the tests!

The Lone Blade: Kiricletica Reborn

Kiri's a little closer to the single-bladed Akatsuki than her "Sword Art Online" inspiration. And not nearly as cute when assassinating.

Kiri’s a little closer to the single-bladed “ninja” Akatsuki from “Log Horizon” than her “Sword Art Online” inspiration, Kirito–although Kiri’s not nearly as cute when assassinating.

Feeling impulsive a few days ago, I gathered up some Tokens of the Twelve with the L26 Kiricletica, made a Heroic True Heart of Wood and proceeded to start a new life with my soloing Ninja Spy.

My impulsiveness made me forget to buy up a boatload of Yugoloth potions, but I still have a modest supply.

And the new ingredients system for the Shared Bank makes localizing collectibles needed for the House Deneith ability potions for more emergency WIS or DEX so much easier. I’ve also been more crazed in farming anything mossy for those WIS potions.

Reviewing the quest list, there wasn’t much else Kiri could accomplish that was necessary to do, although I entertained clearing all other lower quests for a time. She’d mastered Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers.

But I wanted to give Kiri a few important changes under her cloak for this second life.

The Lone Blade

Kiricletica’s first life had one general problem: attack speed. As an armed Monk, damage per second with shortswords is a bit lower than fighting unarmed. She had offhand chances with the Two Weapon Fighting feats but didn’t train them in full.

She was able to pack in more damage with many enemies, thanks to Ninja Poison. However, takedown speed is critical in solo ops so that the isolated enemies you remove do not have an opportunity to strike back or call for help.

Kiricletica is now the first of my Monks to use Single Weapon Fighting.

It was a clear choice to boost attack speed for a character that’s not a one-man army. My exploits with Flynncletica sold me on this idea immediately.

By level 15, Kiri as a SWF user could have 30% base Combat Style bonus melee alacrity, not counting stacking enhancement bonuses from Wind Stance, Haste, or her Melee Alacrity trinket. For quick takedowns, that’s a help.

I said “could” because feats can still be tight if I want to add in Whirlwind Strike for some combat options. If I have to pick, it’s obviously for more SWF speed.

Kiri won’t enjoy the innate stacking Doublestrike, Dodge or AC bonuses that Swashbucklers like Flynncletica can gain with the right training of that class’s enhancements, combined with SWF.

But that’s not the point. The Ninja Spy already masters a shortsword with impressive attack bonuses, Dexterity to Damage, as well as enjoying inherent abilities as a Monk. If I can add some morale bonus Doublestrike in from something, great. She’ll also gain Shadow Double later for a burst of 100% Doublestrike with 2x weapon damage for 6 seconds with a 30 second cooldown.

To my pleasant surprise, Single Weapon Fighting is treated as a Monk Class Feat. Curiously, I couldn’t initially select it during character creation with the granted 2 ranks of Balance already in place, the feat’s only prerequisite. I had to backtrack and add two more points to Balance before the feat was selectable.

Dodge and the Half-Elf Cleric Dilettante returned as well. Using scrolls and wands is just too good to pass up. Training Mobility and Spring Attack for Dodge as well as Combat Expertise for more AC.

I felt more reserved in training too much of the Half-Elf tree, and I shouldn’t be. I chose the Elven side in Kiri’s first life for more Dexterity, which was rather meh, but going more Human this round should be more advantageous with its Action Boosts for special needs, and more additional ability points. Improved Recovery is a no-brainer for needed healing amplification, as is boosting the Cleric dilettante for using Heal and Restoration scrolls.

She ate a saved 30,000 XP gem from a very lucky Daily Dice roll to send her straight to level 3, where she’s already taken the Dark path and trained much of the good stuff in the Ninja Spy tree, lacking only Sting of the Ninja for a while longer.

Kiricletica has the maximum WIS I could add to her on creation: 18 base. She’s already 24 WIS with buffs, inherent bonuses and Ocean Stance  at level 3, still lacking an enhancement bonus item. I exploited her power immediately, using “Freezing the Lifeblood” finishing moves on the few orange bosses of a few Korthos quests. Kiri had 48 base WIS and could boost it to 54-56 with potions by L26. I want to see 60 there for perfect finishers.

Once damage-enhancing abilities such as No Mercy are trained again (up to 30% more damage to helpless enemies), takedown speed will be insane, especially with Human Action Boosts and more DEX. Of course, the assassinate-like Quivering Palm at level 15 should apply quite well with Kiri’s very high WIS DC.

DEX is still important and is the second critical stat. I want to get this much higher than her first life, perhaps 40-45 by Epic. This should help not only sword damage but increase Kiri’s throwing star prowess. If feats allow (and I doubt they will), I’ll add Ten Thousand Stars to her in this life.

Ki retention and generation is the real challenge to making this work at such low levels; Kiri’s DCs for her finishers at her level is rock-solid. A crafted Concentration +7 helm sits on her head for a bit more help. Eight action points are going to train the Henshin Mystic’s Mystical Training (more to finisher DCs)  to ultimately gain the Contemplation ability (more Concentration and another passive ki regeneration point).

Not a single point goes into any Shintao ability.

I dug up a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak  for more Hide/Move Silently until I can use her Cloak of Shadows once more.

She’ll try to have a bit more Spot, too. Colliding into the asses of other stealthy enemies while sneaking around yourself is outright embarrassing.

The Revised Mission

I’ve got a lot of characters to get up to speed and also to TR in keeping with improving my ability to help others enjoy the game and improve their skills.

While I love, love, LOVE playing Kiri in solitary mode, and will still do so from time to time, I’m trying to hold her back while I TR and level up a few others, as too many of my characters are loitering around at higher levels.

I’ll still keep Kiri to her original soloing challenge rules while alone as a matter of role-play, but she’ll be likely joining parties more often. I’m only questioning whether to move her to level 5 right away.

Flynn and Szyncletica will be diving into several “Devil’s Assault” runs to generate as many Tokens as I’m able to do. I’m determined to get my dojo to be less top-heavy so I can help out other players and have more fun to boot.

 

Sympathy for the Devils

The eternal battlefield. Are you too scared to take on the devils on their home turf?

The eternal battlefield. Are you too scared to take on the devils on their home turf? Leave your Epic excuses behind, stop being a baby and go fight for REAL.

I don’t know of many guildmates that bother to hang around in the Devil Battlefield much nowadays, especially with the Epic content in the Forgotten Realms.

But there is still much to be gained there between levels 18 and 24, especially for a Monk.

Before the Menace of the Underdark expansion, the Tower of Despair raid was a popular run, even for PuGs.

To run this raid required a character to complete the four flagging quests: “Genesis Point,” “A New Invasion,” “Bastion of Power,” and “Sins of Attrition.” You also needed to make sufficient runs through the two standalone quests, “Wrath of the Flame” and “Weapons Shipment,” to farm for four ingredients to make the special Boots of Anchoring, needed by melee classes in particular to avoid getting banished back to Eberron by one of the bosses during the raid itself.

Further, in comparison to other Level 19 quests, Shavarath enemies are demons and devils. They’re often filled with immunities and require at least Good-aligned weapons, never approach you short-manned and have bags of hit points to wear you down.

No wonder fewer people run this series.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, especially with Epic questing.

Reason 1: Yugoloth Potions

Today, the most important thing your characters can gain from the  Shavarath quests are Yugoloth Favor Potions. As the name suggests, you gain access to a special vendor when you have sufficient Yugoloth favor. This means you’ll need to run, at minimum, three of the four quests on Elite.

I found that you can leave “A New Invasion” on Hard and complete the others on Elite for sufficient favor, as the end-fight with “Invasion” is a claustrophobic nightmare of trapped floors and a very angry Pit Fiend, chasing you and chaining you to the floor to disembowel you on Elite difficulty.

So what’s special about the “Yugo potions?” They raise your ability scores, a +2 bonus that stacks with anything, including the DDO Store elixirs.

The downside to Yugo potions is that they also have side effects. For Monks, the four potions they’d favor might be the Essence of Betrayal (+2 DEX), Essence of Desire (+2 CON), Essence of Despair (+2 WIS) and Essence of Fury (+2 STR).

In addition to the ability score change, the Essence of Betrayal will also increase your Sneak Attack bonus but decrease your general attack bonus. The Essence of Desire adds a stacking +20 HP but slows your melee attacks by 5%. The Essence of Despair adds +4 to your Natural Armor bonus but saps -4 from your Reflex saves, while the Essence of Fury adds +8 to your Will saves against Fear while sapping your general Will saves to everything else by -4.

In Epic play, getting your WIS modifier and your STR and CON as high as you can is critical. The Yugo potions, in combination with the DDO Store potions, give you +4 to any ability score. The Yugo potions last 15 minutes.

Reason 2: Incredible Potential rings and their companion items

Any ring from the end-rewards of the Tower of Despair raid can be unlocked to show its “incredible potential.” For unarmed Monks, this means you can unlock a ring’s ability to add Holy Burst or other elemental burst effects to your attacks. Since a Shintao Monk can already train to bypass Silver DR, you become a natural Harry Beater with a Holy Burst ring.  Again, this works for unarmed Monks only. However, other effects of the rings, from spell power boosts to elemental absorption to Insightful stat bonuses, can also be available to any class.

It takes a while to make this work. First, get a ring from the raid. The drop rate isn’t high. Some in the party may be looking for the specific set ring for their class and choose instead to let others in the party to roll for their lucky allotment. All rings are Bound to Character on Acquire so you can’t trade them outside of the raid chest.

The rings are also Exclusive. If you happen to gain a second Monk set ring of the same name, you can’t keep it if you already have one in your inventory. I’d be biased and have any Monks roll for it first in party.

Each time you run the raid, you’ll also get a Shavarath War Trophy. You need 9 of these special ingredients, plus a properly imbued Shard of Great Power to unlock the ring.

Getting the class set item (for Monks, the Shintao Cord, Nyoko’s Necklace or Oremi’s Necklace) that matches the ring is a bonus but not required. You’ll find these items drop in the chests through all the flagging quests.

Teacher Syncletica has been the luckiest, owning an unlocked Kyosho’s Ring and its Shintao Cord. Wearing both gives her unarmed Good or Evil DR bypassing in addition to the Holy Burst on her ring.

Reason 3: Bragging Rights

The Devil Battlefield is, well, a battlefield. Nothing comes easy from a place that’s acquainted to eternal war. The mere victories of one adventurer mean nothing to those in Shavarath, unless you happen to come to their turf and kick their ass. A lot.

Which is exactly what GamerGeoff and his Gamer Girl recently did. Every quest, on Elite. They brought in level 20 and 21 characters. Hardly “Epic” characters that used strategy and the right firepower to complete. I know of many people that are horrified, and I mean horrified, to complete the Weapons Shipment at any difficulty, much less Elite. For characters like Szyncletica, it’s generally a turkey shoot. Lynncletica sees it as a good workout.

And I took Kiricletica through the whole Battlefield myself weeks before, dead-solo with no hirelings (except in one required quest, Genesis Point) and beat everything (that could find me while stealthy) on Elite difficulty to get her sufficient Yugo privileges.

Sure, few of us enjoy the devils. They’re tough. They’re meant to be.

But defeating the tough enemies, not getting an easy out…isn’t that what we play to do?

Go kick lots of Shavarath ass, or go home.

Update: Teacher Mernom also noted in the comments that there are alchemical ability score potions you can trade, using collectibles, from several vendors in House Deneith, that can also raise your ability scores, albeit very briefly (2 minutes). The Potion of Reason and the Potion of Health are two examples. You don’t need to go to Shavarath to get them, necessarily, unless the collectable you need happens to spawn there. I’ve played the game for over 4 years and never knew these existed. Thanks!

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