Drow Kunoichi: Ryncletica Resharpened

Each of my Monks are being regroomed as I try to spread out their levels for helping others, but also for something different.

I’ve sent Syncletica, Flynncletica and Szyncletica into several Epic Normal runs of “Devil’s Assault” to gather Tokens of the Twelve for any reincarnation efforts.

I know who was my next TR target–my first dark Monk, Ryncletica, the kunoichi. But for months now I’ve been unsure how to position her. Too many ninjas? Hell, no, you can’t have too many! And if you do, how would you find them?

And then Update 23 came along to inspire several of us in the game–which caused me to go “screw that” to the Token farming for now and buy a Heroic Heart of Wood for getting the inspiration off the ground immediately.

Melee Powered Poison

This DDO thread notes how Venomed Blades, a poison stance granted to Drow and Assassins, gains a 200% boost to Melee Power, which augments attack damage.

What caught my eye is that there is also amplification to poison damage as well. Not just the damage of Venomed Blades, but the Sting of the Ninja effect as well, where Ninja Poison is injected on critical hits. Teacher Firewall, creator of the Shiradi Shuricannon build, confirms that the 1d8 poison damage of Venomed Blades amplifies with more Melee Power as well as the debuffing of Ninja Poison, ranged or in melee. The higher your Melee Power, the higher the damage.

With that, I was able to make a decision for Ryncletica’s third life. Go Drow, go Ninja Spy.

Now, I already have a Drow ninja: Szyncletica, the Shroud Beater. But she’s designed to use only shuriken. And, sadly, the Sting of the Ninja bug affects any poisoning done with all but a few Cannith-crafted stars, including Venomed Blades. (Firewall confirmed that ranged amplification works but using a star that isn’t bugged from using Sting of the Ninja.)

But melee attacks work perfectly with the poison.

Ryn4

I’M BATGIRL. Well, no. Her pointed ears are in the wrong place.

 

So, for your review, here is Ryncletica reborn, my very first ninja, now in her third life. Still in her kunoichi form (assault ninja), but more streamlined, I think.

As a Drow, she’ll gain not only Venomed Blades to accelerate melee and poison damage but gain improved damage with her shuriken and shortswords, her primary weapon.

The Shuriken Expertise free racial feat turns out to be quite handy with extra stars thrown per attack. Thanks to some tips from Szyncletica, Ryn can “switch-hit” quite well, using stars for remote damage and pulls. I need now to make kamas or shortswords that add any off-hand effects for special occasions.

Unlike her sister, Kiricletica, Ryn will stick to Two Weapon Fighting, preferring the off-hand procs (and the accumulating poison and stat damage it can apply) over attack speed.

Ryn benefits from the major schooling that Kiri showed me with the Freezing the Lifeblood and Pain Touch finishers. If I can’t paralyze it, I mute or blind it, even giants (although their higher Fortitude saves tend to shake it off a little faster).

I’m adding a little Sneak Attack damage as points allow, with No Mercy and Shadow Double as critical training goals. One ability I’ve tended to skip, Subtlety, might come in handy, reducing my Threat while making that quick takedown against scattered foes while in party.

But there’s more in store to differentiate her from Kiri and Szyn.

Adding More Spy to the Spymaster

Ryn is getting Harper Agent training to add some Melee Power for her swords and Ranged Power for when she uses shuriken. Drow Xen’drik Training will add to-hit competence bonuses to her weapons. DEX is the prime stat for all damage, with WIS very close behind to ensure that the finishers land and that Ryn has sufficient ki.

Unlike Kiri, who gains some Melee Power as a Single Weapon Fighter, Ryn has to add some through the Harper tree for now or gain no Melee Power at all in Heroic levels.

The inherent advantages of Drow, from stealth to attack skill, should compensate for the lower CON and HP of the Drow.

Ryn has a Phiarlan Mirror Cloak equipped for a modest Hide/Move Silently boost, and has trained in Shadow Veil for invisibility and incorporeality on-demand. Having never owned a Cloak of Shadows, I see some runs into “The Church and the Cult” to find that item for +10 Hide and Move Silently at level 9. Or, I could wait to get to level 11 and buy/farm tapestry pieces from the Orchard to make a Muffled Veneer for +11 Hide/Move Silently. (I prefer the newer Nightforge Gorget to add 100% fortification through level 14 as it also allows me to slot a Deathblock gem in my necklace.)

Ryn5As for Ninja Spy skills, Ryn is the second Ninja Spy I have to not train in the Touch of Death or Stunning Fist. The reasoning is that Ninja Poison with Melee Power should be a greater killer. Many things immune to negative energy or stuns aren’t immune to poison–and I’m able to deliver poison much faster than ToD hits or stuns.

I can rely quite well on Freezing the Lifeblood’s paralyze on many enemies. Those immune from paralyzing (duergar) are likely too resistant to a stun anyway–but not from getting muted by Pain Touch. Unarmed fighting won’t inject Ninja Poison anyway, so shortswords are the mandatory direction for this build.

Most critically, the Action Point costs to train three trees, Drow, Ninja Spy and Harper Agent will be very, very hard while also trying to cling to the Ninja Master level 20 joys of vorpalling everything.

It means I must spend 40 points in Ninja Spy, plus 1 for the last core, to vorpal. After that, I have only 39 points to spread elsewhere: 18 points required into Drow to unlock Venomed Blades and its three ranks, with the last 11 into Harper Agent or Ninja Spy’s other features.

By my calculations, Harper Agent adds +4 Melee/Ranged Power with +3 to my hireling’s abilities from a nearby ability, trained as a progression prerequisite since I must spend 2 AP to go to the next tier for one more point of Melee/Ranged power. Going Harper may not seem worth it.

But hey, these are all enhancement-based things. If being a Harper Agent becomes too gimpy, I’ll reset the tree and devote its points to my Drow/Ninja Spy trees or put a few points in the Mystic tree for more passive ki.

While only 4 points of Melee Power may not be awesome in Heroic, once back in Epic levels, Shadowdancer and Grandmaster of Flowers training, in addition to the new Epic Power feat, will add more melee power and so, more damage.

Skipping Stunning Fist lets me add the Ten Thousand Stars feat instead to boost thrown weapon damage. So far, with Shuriken Expertise, I’m seeing double and occasional triple hits of stars and can reliably take down targets at range.

The No Mercy enhancement adds up to 30% more damage to my poor paralyzed enemies–with Sneak Attack damage to go with that.

In short, Ryncletica is rebuilt for power takedowns, sacrificing defense and healing for massive poisoning, with a little sneak attack, ranged damage and helpless-based DPS.

Sounds more like a traditional ninja, don’tcha think? It’s too bad that the Ninja Mask cosmetic doesn’t cover Ryn’s pointed ears. Despite her training, she doesn’t look like Batgirl in the right way.

Poison Master Revisited

I groomed Kiricletica to be a good poisoner, but Ryn should be able to take it an order or two of magnitude with the amplified Venomed Blades.

I’m played with some Drow abilities. I trained in Faerie Fire, a spell-like ability that dispels Concealment and Hide effects. It’s not quite as strong as I’d like it to be as it requires CHA for its DC. My early tests of it didn’t even reveal some hidden kobolds in the Searing Heights wilderness, so I’ll likely reset the tree and put those points into more Xen’drik Weapon Training.

Ryn still wants to keep her theatricality, a natural thing to be as a ninja. Any clickies or abilities she can use are fair game. Ninja Spy tactics to escape are still on the board. I suspect that AP needed to upgrade Flash Bang and Poison Exploit  to their maximums will be there, even Sneak Attack–but I can’t max out those abilities and train ability score enhancements, too. Ryn is going to be all-talent, no boosts.

Ryn was my first stealth-heavy character, and is only going to be better at it with Update 19’s changes, fresh gear and the refinements to stealth tactics we’ve all learned (now compiled in the Stormreach Shadows guide, if you didn’t know).

Ryncletica is going to miss the versatility of her second life’s half-elven Cleric dilettante in terms of wands and scrolls, forcing her to pick her battles much more carefully then even Kiri did, having only healing potions and the occasional Wholeness of Body healing. That’s familiar territory for Ryn as she was Halfling in life #1. Ryn’s Drow skills do benefit more than as a Halfling, from sleep immunity, and similar Spot/Listen/Search bonuses, but with a more concentrated throwing advantage than even a Halfling.

Ki generation is the biggest challenge in the early levels. I’ve trained in all 3 ranks of Stealthy to gain its +1 to passive ki generation. But I doubt if I have enough AP to add 8 AP to the Henshin Mystic tree’s Contemplation for another passive point without skipping the whole Harper thing. And I’ve been down that road already in life #2.

I’ll have to do with Greater Ocean Stance’s second passive ki regeneration point at level 12 if I want the Harper side. Since Ryn does melee, she can kick on Fire Stance to generate a bunch of ki on attacks, then go into Sneak with higher WIS and Concentration to retain her cache. That’s been my current tactic.

As for weapons, Szyncletica helped out with some very quick runs into Heroic Three Barrel Cove to farm a Tiefling Assassin’s Blade. Kiri loaned out a +1 Poison Shortsword of Feeding to add to the fun. A second Tiefling blade wouldn’t hurt; Kiri still likes hers despite being twice as high in levels than Ryn. The CON damage, combined with Fists of Darkness’s debuffing and fortification damage, and the Precision stance active, makes for fast damage to most anything so far at her Level 8 status. I need some augment gems for my blades.

Even the Tiefling blades should do well for me for several levels, swapping out some pairs of  Vampiric Fury Shortswords, Vengeful Fury Shortswords (both stat-damaging weaponry types) and crafted Metalline of Pure Good swords for special times until I can re-equip a pair of the Happy-Dance of heroic shortswords, the poison-dripping Envenomed Blades at level 16. Lots of time in Gianthold to get some White Dragonscale Armor, too.

Ryncletica should be the summation of the experience of two other ninja–deadly at range, deadliest at point-blank range. She and Sukitetica the Assassin have more in common right now. Stay tuned.

Silk, Hiding Sword, Sting and Shadow

The Kunoichi...where brute strength is lacking, cunning through poisoned blades do the work. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

The Kunoichi…where brute strength is lacking, cunning and poisoned blades do the work. This is actually a close approximation of Kiricletica’s look. (Credit: CreativeCut.com)

Everything I know about Ninja Spies is being fully tested with Kiricletica, the lone ninja (kuniochi).

Combat skills. Stealth limits. Assassination tactics. DefensesNinjutsu.

Just when I think this character is reaching an impasse, something works out in my plans to conquer as many quests as I can without any hirelings or single party member–and with as few kills as required.

Because of this challenge, I have to make major course corrections. One of them is working on mastering the art of poison as a central takedown tactic, particularly with the debuffing power that Ninja Poison can do.

The Lady of Venom

I have not read, in the DDO Forums or elsewhere, of anyone else that’s mastering a poisoner build. Almost all posts involve questions/complaints on how Sting of the Ninja changed (shortly after the enhancement update) to only allow it to work with ninja weaponry (shortswords, kamas and shuriken) but not martial arts or non-ninja uncentered piercing/slashing weapons (bows, unarmed attack) thwarting its use as a min-max option for archers and others.

So, I’m trying to pioneer this attack skill of punishing waves of simultaneous negative energy and poison while perfecting the stealth tactics of the latest updates.

As noted in a past post, Ninja Poison not only injects stacks of poison (up to 20) to give nasty damage over time, but each stack gives 5% vulnerability to anything that isn’t outright immune to poison, to a maximum of 100%. Weapons with untyped poison also enjoy this magnification of damage.

Combine this level of DoT damage with the still-deadly negative energy attacks of Touch of Despair and Touch of Death, and the Ninja Spy becomes a solitary fighter one should not want to meet alone in a dark dungeon. Using the Poisoned Soul ability with Touch of Despair, I can inject poison simultaneously with a negative energy curse and damage from the finisher and a Touch of Death strike.

Poison is also a great offensive weapon when enemies are immune to negative energy. Thankfully, very few enemies are immune to both poison and negative energy attacks.

The downside? It can take a bit of time to pump in poison. You can blow an immediate 1 to 4 stacks into a tight group using Poisoned Darts with a little ki every 15 seconds. Every 10 seconds you can inject 5 stacks over 30 seconds using the Poisoned Soul Ninjutsu ability, through the Touch of Despair finisher. By 40 seconds an enemy is lungs-full of poison with 20 stacks.

A stack is injected on a critical hit with the Sting of the Ninja ability active and when using piercing/slashing weapons. And finally, you can undo all your work (and a chunk of the enemy’s HP) by forcibly ripping the poison out at 1d20 to 1d50 damage per stack, using Poison Exploit.

What’s probably obvious to some is, if the enemy is powerful enough to stand up to such a prolonged beating, can the player withstand the enemy counterattacks?

I think so. That’s why Kiri is training it. Eventually, she will hit a wall with an enemy that cannot be cut down by mere swordplay, and may have far more hit points and defenses. She needs a strong offense that also minimizes damage to herself. Speedy poisoning is the key.

I’m collecting all kinds of weapons that slap untyped poisons to accelerate an attack. The Envenomed Blade (which I’ll dual-wield) will the best of the Heroic-level blades I can use at level 16. Imagine an attack where purple DoTs of 20d4, or 80-100+ damage and greater (with the vulnerability and with poison weapons in use) appear over the head of an enemy per 3 seconds, not to mention the ki attacks, weapon damage and purple negative energy damage that ninjas also use that should quickly devour a foe.

It’s then a matter of good defense to avoid or absorb the damage while at close range.

For that, the Ninja Spy is generally favorable to miss-chance effects (Dodge, Incorporeality, Concealment). Kiri is nearing 20% Dodge and always has Blur (20% conceal) and Shadow Veil (25% incorporeality) for very strong miss-chance defenses at her level. She requires more WIS and DEX for better offensive/defensive/DC results. Slated at the approaching level 14 is a White Dragonscale Robe for much-needed improvements to AC for her later counter-assaults on Lordsmarch as well as Tempest’s Spine Elite.

Lady of War: A Brain over Brawn Offense

Keras, the Drow fighter end-boss in “The Lords of Dust“, is a good example of who Kiri has to poison swiftly. On Heroic Elite this CR26 boss is quite dangerous with his Whirlwind Attack and dual-wielded swords, getting in Sneak Attack damage even if you’re quite fortified. Most parties without a squishy ranged option will choose to go “stick-and-move” on him because of the tremendous damage he can do with only a hit or two. His HP isn’t tiny, so it takes time to kill him.

For Ninja Spies, the option can be to smack him one or two times while throwing Ninja Poison to damage him as he chases you or attacks others. This places powerful poison DoTs on him and makes him more vulnerable to poisons in general so that other party attacks can be more effective. Blowing Poisoned Darts at him every 15 seconds to put 1 to 4 stacks on him should help too.

I’m adding in ranged options, too. To contrast, Szyncletica’s stars are loaded with Ninja Poison and heavily DoTs anything quite well over time with her onslaught of thrown attacks. For her, taking down Keras was easy in the past with star damage, kiting and heavy Ninja Poisoning.

The downside to Szyn’s star-throwing is she cannot use any Ninjutsu with thrown weapons, relying only on Sting of the Ninja and Venomed Blades, so poisoning was a slower process. Kiri uses stars as well, and not badly, but her attacks are less damaging and slower than a Shiradi Shuricannon. Still, from long range, she does build up some poison on a charging enemy before entering melee and dosing it much faster. Getting a Quiver of Poison for more ranged poison damage isn’t a bad idea as well.

But Kiricletica should be a better overall poisoner with the full Ninjutsu abilities, while piling on weapon damage, negative energy and elemental damage with ki strikes.

Like many other finishing moves, poison mastery requires coordination. An Earth/Dark/Earth finisher might be good here for Pain Touch, which prevent enemy spellcasting and attacks until they save from the effect while you can wail on them and set up a Ninjutsu/Touch of Despair attack.

Poisoning works for Kiri as she’s not trying to chase any enemy around the dungeon and attract too much attention. If she can throw a few potent DoTs on an enemy and break off, letting them die slowly while she escapes and hides. This would be especially true against bosses that are a required target while their minion guards aren’t.

The end fight of “Frame Work” fits this bill. With other characters I have been able to lure up the chieftain boss, the only required kill,  to the upper platforms of the end-fight area, smacking him around while his minions hold back for a time, wondering what’s going on. Imagine getting enough poison stacks on him to where you just walk away after a bit as he eventually just succumbs to the poison. One Flash Bang to hold off your escape from his guards, perhaps also to loot, and you’re done for the day with some green tea awaiting you in the dojo.

Lady Of Blinding Darkness

I’ve been quickly adding more lesser-used ninja tactics to aid in the inevitable mob fights, or to prevent some.

You already know I enjoy pulling individuals with a well-thrown star. Provided it doesn’t create a zone bug (where the quest presumes you’ll fight a boss in a specific location) this works well.

I also use stars to break objects so their sound lures other enemies to that sound, while I sneak forward to do my business. When there aren’t crates or jars to break, I’ve resorted to using enemies themselves to generate noise. This is tricky, since a jar won’t come charging to kill you. But if it can be done at long range, the enemy reacts and others react to him without an immediate charge. But with that farther range, you have to traverse a greater distance to make it to your objective before enemy attention returns to your path.

I’m switching up a lot when the mobs become too huge. I completed “Slavers of the Shrieking Mines” and “Bring Me The Head of Ghola-Fan!” recently. Midway through “Ghola-Fan”, I reached the spiral staircase and floated down the center to a soundless entry where Taskmaster Tar-Lom breaks in his newly-trained troops, declaring you as the training dummy.

I hit the leader with a poison dose and ran away. I kept my attention on the boss as best I could, hitting him with more poison. He fell before his own students did.

But the mob numbered ten or more. A swing-by-swing fight, even with Vampiric Fury Shortswords, proved to become a losing battle with the angered students, even with Blur and Incorporeality going.

I started spitting Poisoned Darts at them, whirling away to heal up after stunning and blinding the mob with a Flash Bang. The poison weakened the mobs as well as the shortsword’s CON leaching from disease.

Two or three rounds of this and the fight was done. If I had to, I could have used that Flash Bang to escape outright since blindness is effectively an invisibility guard. I would just go into Sneak and use an Abundant Step to move away to a safe spot so they wouldn’t hear where I moved to and chase me.

Flash Bangs are awesome. They offer something I think other players don’t realize. Like Stunning Fist, this stuns an enemy for 6 seconds. Unlike Stunning Fist, it also blinds, is an area-of-effect attack and works with wielded weapons. It’s slower to use with a 30 second cooldown, yes, but it still offers a useful stun effect for weapon users, where Stunning Fist cannot be applied.

I’m going to max out Flash Bang to ensure for better tactical options when the going gets too tough. Again, that’s more need to pump up WIS for a better DC for it to succeed. I’ve found it’s a cool way to escape rooms where you’ve had to pull a lever or switch and enemies detect you. After I pull the lever, I get the room’s occupants to group up before throwing a Bang at them. It’s like a Batman-esque smoke bomb. Blinded and sometimes stunned, by the time they can see again and begin searching in vain to find me, I’m long gone. I used that trick in one room in “Faithfully Departed” very recently.

You might be asking what I’m ultimately sacrificing with the planned use of all the poison attacks and special ninja skills. The answer is Sneak Attack. I have 1 of the 4 tiers trained up, but that’s it (and I’ll likely reallocate those points). For Kiri, she’d only get one (weak) punch as a Sneak Attack, so these points are wasted while in solo play. Kiri could never generate the ultimate Sneak Attack power of a Rogue anyway. I’d rather add more DEX or WIS with those Action Points to ensure that later monastic training will be more effective, such as Quivering Palm, the assassinate-style attack at level 15.