The Efficient Gamer

Ryn4Being an older gamer (“When I was your age, we played with 8-bits…and we LIKED IT!) I’m not as keen as jumping on the bandwagon of some other new game. I have been tempted to try out WoW just to see what the fuss was about.

My new job (yay!) consists of three or four 12-hour work days. The advantage of that is a LOT of days off to decompress, sleep and catch up on work.

This new routine has reduced my DDO time a bit, because, as my guild’s prime rule says, “real life comes first.”

That doesn’t mean I’m not playing at least two to three hours per week. Still doing the same things, just a bit slower.

Pynthetica is nearing 29 once more as a Zen Archer. I’m looking into improving this build once more, as I might have noted, by checking out other races and classes. My last task from a gear standpoint is (1) craft up level 30-ish items that are optimally placed (WIS, DEX) so to allow use of named items, replacing some loot-gen items that aren’t in good spots; (2) Complete a Legendary Shroud and craft up ingredients to make my Legendary Green Steel Mineral Longbow with “You Cannot Evade Me”: an augment that spikes Insightful DEX by 1d8+2 for 20 seconds and causes 1d8+2 Dexterity damage. Apropos for the ever-evading Zen Archer, do you think?

Paracleta, my very successful Zen Bowmaster, finally has her Complete Thunder-Forged Longbow. Being a first-lifer, I’ll possibly eTR her first and burn Shiradi karma for a Doubleshot 3% bonus to bring her ultimate standing Doubleshot to 74% with gear but before any use of Ten Thousand Stars or Manyshot, which sends her Doubleshot to as high as 241%. I should begin work on her Legendary Green Steel Longbow, too. Once back at level 30, it’ll be back to a regular Heroic True Reincarnation to play around with some things. Paracleta was built as a counter-attack to comments about the Zen Archer. As serendipity would have it, she found a very strong niche. This character will have a long and very dangerous life.

I’d love to get more time in on Ryncletica, my third build, the Poison Master. She’s incredibly dangerous with her DPS and poison damage but could use some offensive adjustments over several areas. The great thing about her is that she’s effective at any level because of her build design. Time to play with other races, although this may reduce a little poison damage and require feats I get for free as a Drow. She’s also lacking powerful Thunder-Forged weapons, but her innate speed and damage is already good. Defense is the central need for the Poison Master.

Lynncletica has proven herself as a very versatile tank over many raids. There’s little more she can be, so I may never TR her again, reserving her as a contingency tank for raids that lack one. We’ll see. Meanwhile, new Dragonborn Shintao Scythetica may be filling in as I test this race with Shintao training.

Been thinking of how to improve Szyncletica, my old original Shuricannon. I should look at Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 notes and integrate them into her next life. Meanwhile she’s working on a Thunder-Forged shuriken since Pyn, Paracleta and Lynn are done with their many “Deathwyrm” raid rotations. Like Pyn, Szyn is desperately in need for optimizing her gear, so she’s aiding that being the central contributor of loot-gen gear to be crunched into Cannith essences for my crafter to use and grow.

With the Update 33 changes, I’d also want to revisit some older ideas. One that fell by the wayside with the enhancement tree introduction was the “Avatar” build that leverages the strengths of each and every Monk stance. Now that the Monk stances are themselves augmented yet again and with improvements (and more personal experience with) Epic Destinies, I might be able to take one of my characters through such a development.

And then there’s the recent changes that have made stealth (and, in the case of Rogues, assassination) that make this ability much more hazardous to use. I still have my solo-stealth master, Kiricletica, to study how to augment stealth skills against a dungeon that, on sensing you, truly alerts whole squads at you. Can a ninja still use their disappearance and stealth skills to escape reliably?

Thanks for still coming by to read, although I cannot post as often as I’d like.

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A Final Review of My Builds

So, all three of the builds I created are sufficiently leveled and geared. I can now update the Monk guide with guidelines on what to expect as you start and level them.

Thanks so much for your suggestions, criticisms and patience as I’ve played through each one. I hope you will find them (or variants you design from them) useful and fun.

I don’t think I’ve made a post where I’ve spoken of them all in-depth. To avoid cluttering up the guide with such subjective drivel, I’ll post it here.

The Zen Archer

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Purpose: High miss-chance, high Ranged Power Elven defensive sniper. 20 Monk (Harper Agent/Ninja Spy)

Best environments:

  • Attacking enemies using missiles or magic, as they have a very hard time making a successful hit against the build due to its high Concealment, Incorporeality, Dodge, Improved Evasion, PRR, AC and Spell Resistance
  • Quests where stealth can be used to allow sniping from a distance. Enemies often never reach this build before she kills them with Deception, Epic Destiny abilities, and Tendon Slice effects.

Worst environment:

  • Legendary raids, where the enemy CR is sufficient to bypass most of the build’s layered defenses
  • Raids with mostly Red-named enemies (such as “Defiler of the Just”), where the build’s DPS and single-target enemy controls to slow or stop enemies is neutralized

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • High sustained ranged DPS, second only to Zen Bowmaster, thanks to higher Ranged Power from Harper Agent
  • Fast takedown with higher innate Ranged Power and Deception effects that add Sneak Attack damage
  • Useful 33% standing Doubleshot with EDs and gear
  • Strongest stealth skills, but slower movement speed in stealth
  • Miss-chance effects, spell resistance and PRR allow sustained DPS even when attacked by several enemies at once
  • Using Harper Agent and Elf Dragonmark enhancements, can gain 6-minute Displacement
  • Can use Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot, works well with “Furyshot.”
  • High Diplomacy, useful in several instances
  • Damage dependent on DEX, bow quality and arrows
  • Has best fortification-bypass options; can land 100+ hits against Legendary Shroud planar gateways with 55% fortification bypass thanks to Epic Destiny abilities and Thunder-Forged longbow
  • Easy build to train other EDs, once Pin and Otto’s Whistler are available in Twist of Fate slots
  • Uses Precise Shot only to build up damage bonuses and limit Threat generation
  • As a stationary fighter, generates the best sustained damage against toughest enemies

The Zen Archer was discussed on the forums, and you can find more build information in the Monk guide.

The Zen Bowmaster

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Purpose: High-DPS offensive ranged attacker. 20 Monk (Arcane Archer)

Best environment: Enemies with low Will saves.

Worst environment:

  • Quests or raids against some special Red-named enemies or enemies with higher Will saves (enemy Clerics, Paladin/Blackguards, shamans) that resist attack DCs
  • Quest or raids where the build generates too much aggro; the build has the lowest overall defenses

Strengths and Weaknesses:

  • Very high DPS. Bow damage combines with Ranged Power and arrow imbues augmented by spell power from the AA tree.
  • Uses both Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot for highest burst Doubleshot while in Divine Crusader ED – up to 240%
  • Highest standing Doubleshot on first life (75% with feats, ED, AA and gear)
  • Versatile attack options from the AA tree (blunt/piercing/slash/Doubleshot) and elemental, force, paralyzing, banishing and smiting effects
  • AA imbues are based on WIS modifier. As a Monk, build can greatly boost WIS to use as to-hit modifier (Zen Archery feat), generating extra AC, and creating DCs for arrow effects that operate even in Legendary Elite raids, especially paralyzing
  • Fair fortification bypass
  • Useful, but not superior miss-chance effects
  • Sustained damage lower than Zen Archer but imbued spell power attacks compensate often for increased damage per attack for some enemies over Zen Archer
  • Not as weapon-dependent as Zen Archer unless enemy resists AA attacks due to higher fortification
  • Uses Improved Precise Shot, which often causes great Threat generation

You’ll find the fundamental build information in the Monk guide.

The Poison Master Ninja

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Purpose: High-DPS offensive melee Drow. 20 Monk (Ninja Spy)

Best environment: Enemies with low Fortitude saves.

Worst environment:

  • Quests or raids where enemies can resist special attacks that cause Helplessness, Nausea, or Blindness
  • Quest or raids where enemies are immune from Negative Energy or Poison

DPS and Weaknesses:

  • Medium High to Very High DPS, depending on whether Helplessness can be used
  • Second-best stealth skills (second to Zen Archer), fastest movement speed while Sneaking
  • Best instant-kill power against isolated enemies, using finishing moves or Quivering Palm attack
  • Ninja Spy training augments stealth, defense, movement speed, Dexterity to-hit and to-Damage with shortswords and shuriken, Sneak Attack damage and Ninja Poison, a powerful DoT effect that cannot be resisted except by Poison-immune enemies
  • Drow racial feats and enhancements add Shuriken and Shortsword prowess as well as additional Poison damage
  • Optional Epic Destiny Feat choices can add greater Doublestrike, Doubleshot and bonuses to Dodge and Dodge cap (to 34%)
  • Some Ninja Spy Monk finishing moves cause Helplessness, allowing No Mercy enhancement (and, in Epic, stacking with Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness) to generate 30 to 60% additional damage on Helpless enemies
  • As a melee fighter without a shield, defenses are limited to WIS (AC bonus), Combat Expertise, high miss-chance effects, and movement speed

Detailed information can be found in the Monk guide.

Theatricality and Deception, Part 3: Iron Ninja

Her small elven form, the tips of her pointed ears barely visible through her order’s traditional black mask, quietly, swiftly dropped through a hole above the holding cell of several slaves-to-be, a mix of human, elven and even Drow.

She ignored the stench within the hole; apparently it was a dumping hole for a latrine once. Apparently, dumping fecal waste falling from above into a slave’s cell was a mere matter of efficiency for the Drow who commanded here.

But these were not the Drow of Ryncletica’s kind. They were an otherworldly sort. Rather than meeting the challenges of Vulkoor, these Drow worshipped Lolth, the Spider Queen goddess.

Ordinarily, Ryncletica would respect Drow as Drow: Let the best man win, as Vulkoor would demand. But these were Drow of a different bent. They wanted domination. They ignored Vulkoor. And they chose to enslave even their own kind.

Ryncletica’s vows of law and order, combined with her personal distaste of spiders and the fact that one overgrown spider goddess was threatening to rip her home world into rocks for the Demonweb, gave her renewed assurance that these things that call themselves Drow were not worthy.

In the cell, the slaves inside gave little reaction to her falling from above, save to move away, closer to the rocks and bars of the cell’s interior. Ryncletica’s eyes were only visible to them, but she could see a few of them relax slightly as she lifted a single index finger to her covered mouth as a caution to stay quiet. The two Drow slaves in the cell narrowed their eyes in examination. She knew what they were thinking. Familiar form, yet not the same.

She pulled out her shortswords and slammed them into the cell door, letting her weapon’s many enchantments easily destroy the simple wards that kept the door magically sealed to hold the captives inside.

The hushed but tangible sounds of rushed footfalls came from ahead. “The door is open! Search for the slave that did this!” one of the Drow guards said. The others of the party scattered, searching the darkness and dank with their enhanced night-vision for the intruder, confident that they would find their prey.

From above, something disguised as just another stalactite fell towards a lone guard, green, icy Ninja Poison dropping from her outstretched swords…


 

Ryncletica may be level 30 but her power continues to grow amazingly well. So much so that she’s doing something only Szyncletica the star-thrower has done often: Soloing Epic Elite adventures.

That news might be a “meh” moment to a few of you that eat Epic Elite quests as snacks. But consider that I don’t use multiclassed characters. I’m using everything a single class offers, while synergizing Epic Destinies, feats, skills and gear as anyone else would do. Ryncletica has reached a personal pinnacle where the use of theatrical and deceptive tools as well as some of the better gear and training now raise her to a level none of my melee Monks have achieved.

For me, in the past, Epic Elite meant a very bloody fight, even with a full party. But now I know that the first and foremost requirement in entering EE is fortification beyond 150 and at least 500 HP. At 200+ fortification and 800ish HP,  I can withstand several 100 point critical hits without worry and need to pay attention only to Red Named and champions, who break those rules and most of my defenses.

The key to Ryncletica’s challenge (and successes, so far) is using the basics inherent in the class. Stealth. Quick strikes. Doublestrike. Techniques to disable and slay.

That is, most of her Heroic enhancements remain her fundamentals of attack, defense, and especially escape. Epic feats, destinies only improve the enhancement’s effectiveness.

Technique remains the prime skill. I don’t engage everything at once. I pick off the weakest and leave me plenty of time to pummel the toughest without any enemy reinforcements helping out. I’ll scatter the enemies, cause them to search for me. And when the moment is right. I strike.

So let’s break down the Epic Poison Master.

Offenses

Ryncletica is primarily a two-weapon melee fighter with the complete Two-Weapon Fighting line and the Epic Destiny feats Blinding Speed for permanent Haste and Perfect Two-Weapon Fighting for more doublestrike. She’s got 32% Doublestrike with current options. Every ki weapon she wields is a Vorpal weapon courtesy of Ninja Spy training.

Being Drow, like Szyncletica the Shuricannon, Ryn holds a powerful alternative to melee fighting when it is unsafe to engage an enemy at close range. As a melee fighter, her weaponry slices and dices rapidly, with large levels of ki generated by that. But she is also quite capable of taking out anything using her shuriken almost as rapidly as her swords, missing only some of the ranged/thrown feats to optimize that skill.

Ninja Poison is the central damage dealer. No matter what the weapon, Ninja Poison is delivered to any enemy except Poison-immunes (most demons, devils, constructs and undead). This damage-over-time effect accelerates her killing power, debuffs any Poison resistance by 100% and lasts longer than other DoTs.

Secondary damage comes from Sneak Attacks and any destiny training effects, which comes frequently as I bluff them with the Unyielding Strike attack. Unloading Ninja Poison via the Touch of Despair finisher also debuffs an enemy against the quintessential negative-energy attack, the Touch of Death.

As for weaponry, I’ve noted it before in a recent post. I’m using the strongest Venomous shortswords I have, both given Festival Icy Burst, used against most enemies. I change up weapons as necessary: two Elemental Fury swords for most elementals, two Thunder-Forged shortswords for DR-busting, or Epic Forester Brush Hooks for metalline/aligned bypassing against Maruts and pit fiends.

Defenses

Ryncletica now shows the most impressive defensive stats of any Monk I’ve made, more so than even my “Little Mountain” Shintao Monk, Lynncletica.

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Currently training the Unyielding Sentinel destiny, Ryncletica boasts the best defenses I’ve had on a Monk. She has a 97 PRR with 34% Dodge, 20% Concealment, 25% Incorporeality with 152 AC and 215 Fortification. All these numbers have saved her from devastating damage against Epic Elite Champions and some bosses, but that’s half the story.

Earth Stance gives +15 stacking PRR, and she wears the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian for +38 PRR by enhancement. Unyielding Sentinel’s Heed No Pain gives +30 PRR and some Insightful PRR bracers add another 15. By twisting the tier 2 ability Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnought for +20 PRR, Ryn can reach 117 PRR in her current destiny. While in Grandmaster of Flowers to use ki for maximum offensive options (such as the crowd-destroying Everything is Nothing during trash-ridden raids such as “Fire on Thunder Peak”), the Standing with Stone ability and its +15 PRR will be combined with Improved Combat Expertise to reach 38 (Outfit) + 15 (Earth Stance) + 15 (Insightful bonus bracers) 15 (Standing with Stone)+ 20 = 103 PRR.

I did consider the Shintao Monk enhancement Iron Skin to give additional PRR, but it would take away from Ninja Spy’s Sneak Attack bonuses and Crippling Strike at tier 5 of its enhancements. The miss-chance defenses help more than additional PRR, anyway.

The Legendary Feat Scion of the Astral Plane raised her Dodge cap to 34%. With a Lesser Displacement item (three are available from high-end content), she can reach Dodge/Incorporeality/Concealment defenses of 34/25/25%. Using blinding techniques such as Flash Bangs give a brief 50% Concealment.

Tactics

Superheroes like the Batman or Black Widow are more than their weapons. They use their cunning to help fight enemies, even when outnumbered–provided they focus on keeping every else they fight busy, confused, off-balance, or ineffective.

A ninja is about deception and subtle attack, using stealth and non-damaging resources to move the enemy to where she wants them to be, or leveraging the enemy’s expected behavior to her advantage.

One game-changing Epic Destiny feat changed my fighting dynamic significantly: Dire Charge. This is a stunning ability that uses your highest ability score modifier +20 and any Stunning modifiers from gear (I use a Seal of House Dun’Robar).  The stun created by ramming into an enemy leaves nearby enemies helpless for 6 seconds, much like Stunning Fist,  but a mass effect. I eliminate them quickly as the combined Sense Weakness and No Mercy generate over 60% more damage with additional modifiers.

Often I’ll use distance to lure solitary enemies, using shuriken, and then use Dire Charge or the paralyzing Freezing the Lifeblood finisher to pick them off. Isolating enemies fits the ninja skill set but is also a safer option than charging into a heavily-armed group of CR 42+ enemies.

In the event I have to dive into a large fight where crowd control isn’t practical, such as the end-battle in “The Battle of Eveningstar,” I use my shuriken with a Celestia as the off-hand weapon that delivers area-of-effect fireballs and flame while I ran about, keeping the spawns down while concentrating on the boss. I often soften up champions, which frequently have attacks that bypass my strongest defenses, with ranged attacks.

More techniques include fighting when pulling isn’t an option. When a mob gathers up to surround me, I let them–and then throw a Flash Bang to stun and blind them. I can use Dire Charge then to stun a few longer and then kill them, or fade into stealth and regroup.

When the mob is too large for grinding them down, it’s the hate-magnet dummy created by the Diversion ability that can not only save me but a party as well. Often Orange and Red Named enemies aren’t pulled to the dummy, but their support will be, which will at least limit my fight, hopefully at some distance from the dummy, to a fewer number.

The essential objectives are the only items on the Iron Ninja’s playbook on Epic Elite. Most combat-oriented optionals are skipped for speed or avoided for safety. Likewise, it’s against the ninja way to slaughter boxes and barrels; breakable bonuses are skipped. These leave you vulnerable since enemies will hear your footfalls as you run around barrel-slaying.

But why talk about it? Let me show you how Ryncletica uses every trick she has to take on the hordes in the combat-heavy EE “House of Broken Chains.” House Avithoul’s guards are no slouches with many critical-hitting blademasters (often champions) to handle, and spiders about to throw me off my stealth game if I’m not prepared.

But playing Epic Elite requires you to be prepared. Perhaps not as crazy-prepared as the Batman, but similarly able to adjust to any scenario. In this quest, I learn quickly how to match muscle against muscle by creating an army of my own from House Avithoul’s resources.

The video will be closed-captioned in YouTube: Click on the CC button to view them.

Since this video, Ryn has completed two of the three Demonweb quests alone as well on EE. Whether she’ll try the enemy-zerging “Reclaiming the Rift,” I don’t know.

And now I’m considering if Ryncletica has the chops to pull off a melee-based solo Heroic Shroud like her star-throwing cousin. If I do so, I’ll let you know.

Epic Purple Haze: Venomous Weapons

Update 29's new prefix/suffix format offers some improvements for a poison master--if she can find the weapons.

Update 29’s new prefix/suffix format offers some improvements for a poison master–if she can find the weapons.

I’m still tooling about with Ryncletica, a Drow that leverages all kinds of Poison damage with Ninja Poison to DoT the hell out of many enemies.

With Update 29, a curious addition has arrived to weapon prefixes that has almost caused me to forget that I still need a Shard to build an Epic Envenomed Blade for Ryn.

That’s the Venomous prefix. These are adding 1d6, 2d6, 3d6, 4d6, 5d6, even 6d6 Poison damage to weapons. That’s a lot of Poison for the 100% Poison debuff caused by Ninja Poison to amplify, far more than the Poison damage that any other weapon adds. In contrast, my two preferred weapons are the Tiefling Assassin’s Blade and the Envenomed Blade, which give only 1 to 6 Poison, with occasional bursts of additional Poison in the latter. I just found a level 28 blade of Critical Piercing for extra damage.

So these new weapons give more consistent Poison damage that should stack and amplify. I said should as I had yet to test it until recently.

While the Venomous prefix was rather common, it took me some time to find a couple of shortswords (shown above) with Venomous, never mind an idea set with of Wounding or Doublestrike. I even found a Venomous returning shuriken before these two shortswords. That’s the first Poison throwing star I’ve ever seen, and I hope to watch Sting of the Ninja boost its DoT effects.

So, at level 24, Ryn’s test needed to find a boss that (1) Wasn’t a devil, elemental or undead, (2) Was respectfully high rank, at least CR 28 so I can watch the DoT build-up, and (3) had a simple end-fight with no respawns to complicate my observations.

Frelga, the night hag awaiting at the end of “The Riddle” on Heroic Elite, qualified for the job.

The result: As expected, these weapons get sizable boosts of Poison damage that get magnified with Ninja Poison. This build also adds the Venomed Blades Drow enhancement to go with all that. Don’t have a Quiver of Poison yet, which would complete this build’s power.

ScreenShot01826

ScreenShot01828It would be nice to also find an Red augment slot. Sadly, there are no Poison rubies we can add to weapons. That would be nice to see.

The weapons themselves also have a strong base damage, which is welcome.

You may notice other purple damage amidst all the purple poison haze. That’s the Touch of Despair finisher debuff that magnifies negative energy damage. I do have the 500-point zapping Touch of Death on hand, but wasn’t using it here so I could observe the new Poison.

The Poison Master is a somewhat limited build to be sure, especially with Update 28 and 29’s additional raids and quests that build up to a new invasion by the devils of Shavarath and other outsiders that are completely immune to Poison. Good against Drow and humans and many others.

But when that one HP-heavy boss shows up that isn’t a devil but is resistant to many other attacks, Ryncletica will be up to the job.

The Best of Both Worlds

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Leveling felt like it took forever, but Ryncletica the Poisonmaster is back in Epic.

Epic melee combat always requires a different strategy. Like Rogue Assassins, Epic Ninja Spies thrive on opportunity, and try to generate as many opportunities as possible.

What’s surprised me are the many opportunities a Ninja Spy has available.

Healing Up and Epic Destinies

Like Szyncletica the star-thrower, Ryncletica is a Drow and needed better battle healing. The popularly trained Rejuvenation Cocoon was the simple answer, attained at level 24.

Most of you know how grinding through Epic Destinies to unlock access to each one can be a bit daunting. Thankfully, experience with my first mature Zen Archer showed me that the rewards were well worth it. (This isn’t news for many of you. I’m just slow, so I apologize. I’m more likely to enjoy playing than grinding for continuous growth, typically.)

When Ryn last TR’ed, I was rather selfish in leaving a destiny because the benefits felt safe. Shadowdancer was like that for Ryncletica. I felt safer in it and did not see how other destinies outside of Grandmaster of Flowers would synergize as well as with my Ninja Spy. But, now, after playing through several with the Zen Archer (a ninja at heart), I’ve seen the light and rededicated Szyn and Ryn to complete as many destinies as necessary to get commonly useful abilities and improve the character’s overall efficiency.

Again, I apologize for being dense about this sort of thing until recently. Like enhancement trees, you shouldn’t overlook benefits in other destinies, even it it takes time to develop them. And best to take advantage of first-life XP to build these up faster than in later lives.

So Legendary Dreadnought right now ultimately provides some HP and melee power, but I don’t find myself doing much with the boosts. I’m appreciating the critical hit and threat boosts, and I’m sure to enjoy Master’s Blitz for boss fights.

It’s when I trained up Shiradi that Ryn showed a different side of herself. Ryn is a light version of Shuricannon 1.0 because she is Drow, lacking only the ranged feat bonuses and a bit less DEX. But, with a Celestia in hand, Ryn can tear through monsters almost as well with her stars as her swords. Ryn’s behaving more like a Ranger than a Monk in this regard; capable of equally powerful melee or ranged fighting if the need arises.

I’ll let you know more about other destinies as I level them to open up more fate slots if I see a need.

As for healing amplification, I need that, too. Neither Drow nor Ninja Spy offer any inherent healing amp. I’m using a herolic Shamanic Fetish for some boosts to it right now, but if I can improve it with some points to my Healing skill with an augment, I’ll add it. The Purple Dragon Gauntlets are an easy option but it takes away my Melee Alacrity I appreciate from my Fabricator’s Gauntlets. But then, I could use a crafted Trinket of Melee Alacrity and use the PDK Gauntlets to see if its healing amp works better than Devotion spell power.

Weapons (or: How I Own Drow with Level 4 Shortswords)

With the capstone enhancement, Ninja Master, I will often Vorpal with my shortswords.

But I understand how some feel that there aren’t really powerful shortswords for Epic play.

I’m realizing this isn’t as much of a problem for a Ninja Spy that uses their innate skills.

I have a couple of Epic Elemental Fury swords for level 26, and two Thunder-Forged Shortswords in use now. Both TF swords have Rubies of the Endless Night, but they aren’t as effective to me as I would like against some things, and I’d likely swap those out for some Good augment gems.

I also want my Poisoning powers at maximum. One weapon can improve that, with some extra grinding in one quest.

That’s “Spinner of Shadows.” The goal is to find two Shards of the Envenomed Blade. I’ve got one Seal and two Scrolls so far. Once I can upgrade two, they will become my stronger Epic “go-to” weapon against most non-demon enemies that are susceptible to Poison damage. The Epic Envenomed Blade has a decent 2(W)+6 base damage boost and a higher Enhancement damage. The Enervation feature will match that I’ve added to the weaken Tiefling blades in the form of Rubies of the Endless Night. The upgrade gains me Red augment slots where I can improve their DR, likely with Good gems.

I recall Evennote’s post of some time back of her frustration in grinding for a Shard for her Silver Slinger. I believe she did eventually get one to drop later in repeated runs in “The Spinner of Shadows”. That was back in 2013, before a recent update that defined the chances of Shards and Seals drop rate at 5% at Epic Normal to 15% on Epic Elite. Of course, running in a party should stack those odds through the number in the party. A guildmate’s expressed interest, too, in running “Spinner” often enough to find it, so, with chest ransack rules also factoring in, a larger party is best.

One thing I won’t look forward to handling are the Hezrous. Hezrou demons suck. I’d rather stick-and-move against Karas, especially with Ninja Poison DoTs, even in EE. But Shards for the whole chain drop only in the Epic Chest of “Spinner.”

I thought to improve my Hezroubuster skills. Most Spinner hunting parties die because they split up too much. Herzous easily whomp solo adventurers without a plan. Staying together saves resources. And the blue spiders weren’t going anywhere.

So, before I had the TF swords, and with a little research, I make some Hezroubusting shortswords.

I had to test out those +5 Axiomatic Burst Flametouched Iron Shortswords of Chaotic Outside Bane in an Epic Normal run in “Spinner,” but not before double-checking some notes on controlling the Spinner. Seems I was overdoing the pinning process. After pinning her well in rounds 1 and 2, I had several minutes to run around with my two hirelings to gather crystals.

And then came the hezrous and renders. I charged in, the new swords butchering them. I shoved in what dark finishers would work against them sometimes (Pain Touch) but mostly it was a DPS thrashing of any hezrous that got too close. Being in Grandmaster of Flowers helped; I have a few more bits of XP to fill that destiny before returning to Legendary Dreadnought.

The battle over, but no shards of any kind. ‘Tis sad. But I lived. As soon as I can build up a bit more power and gain a party, it’s back to the Khyber salt mines.

But for Ryncletica, the simple things remain ridiculously effective in many places.

I entered an Epic Hard “House of Broken Blades,” armed myself with only my Tiefling Assassin’s Blades and laid waste to that place.

The key (as always) isn’t in the base weapon damage but in several other aspects:

  • Poison damage from the blades combined with Ninja Poison
  • The 15-20 critical threat range, now turned to 13-20 with Ninja Master and Improved Critical
  • Higher damage with high (though not highest) DEX
  • Tthe Ninja Spy’s various abilities to make enemies helpless.

I mixed up stealth using the hirelings to lure enemies close, or sneaked up to enemies and smacked them with Freezing the Lifeblood over and over. Any Drow that met me, including Orange-named and nasty Champions, dropped very quickly as the full power of the tiefling sword carved their HP with a few strikes. Even the bosses hated me with the critical hits (and boosts to critical damage from LD) that whittled them down.

And if they’re too dangerous to constantly swat? A Snowstar damages as well as melee blades. I’m working on finding a Dawnbringer.

Advanced Armor and other Gear

I’m using the Way of the Sun Soul set and have an unlocked Spider-Spun Caparison for later.

I investigated the benefits of the Shadow Dragonscale armors to see if an outfit would be a benefit. My Poisonmaster relies on effects that wound (weakening CON and therefore Fortitude to make dark finishers stick) deliver Poison (magnified by my Ninja Poison debuffing) and bypass fortification. Doesn’t look like those outfits will help, outside of 130% fortification that would relieve me of wearing two items and not one to get my fortification to 175% or better.

Higher Doublestrike would be preferable, too. Having 20 to 25% based Doublestrike would be ideal when I’m not spamming Shadow Double for a 6-second 100% Doublestrike burst. I don’t see that happening unless I do Epic TRs.

Sometimes, with some Netherese or even a pirate gets you down, a ninja needs to dance.

Sometimes, with some Netherese or even a pirate gets you down, a ninja needs to dance.

Not many choices to boost attack speed. It may not be a bad thing to consider grinding for an Epic Jorgundal’s Collar (Level 25) with its 15% alacrity.

Fitting in improved epic fortification (150%) is critical for melee fighting, far more than my ranged work with Mericletica. I have Brace for Impact already for 40% and can use the combined Fabricator’s set for another 25% but at the cost of the Sun Soul effects and some stat benefits. I want 200% but I’m functional enough at 150%, with a few rings and cloaks to boost things as I need them.

Champions are still a pain, and Ryn has it harder at times. I tried her first EE with my usual hireling duo (Albus the Favored Soul and my Onyx Panther) in EE “Bargain of Blood.” Hobgoblins were more initially resistant to Freezing without weakening them more in some way. When a Champion came out, he turned my party into an unappealing goo.

Stats

I completed two Shavarath quests to get my Yugoloth potions, and have a few other stacking potions to get DEX and WIS briefly to 46. That seems low but consider how the poisonmaster needs that balance. I’m favoring WIS since a helpless-inducing finisher allows the Ninja Spy enhancements to tear up anything, reducing the need for higher DEX.

Like any other melee fighter, Ninja Spies don’t like crowds. But one Flash Bang or a Diversion dummy and I’m so much vapor to regroup. I still don’t like aberrations and demons. I do better against the living humanoid types.

That said, I want a standing 44 WIS and 40 DEX through any means I can. I may retool Grandmaster of Flowers to a higher WIS than DEX to help with the critical finishers.

Because Ryncletica is all over the map with her abilities, it’s going to harder to pin down her build for the Monk guide’s build section. But maybe that’s a good thing. That variation might let you try different things without straying too far from the build’s inherent function.

It’s a harder melee build to play, for sure. Stealth simply avoids immediate death. Yet it’s not her EDs or powerful weapons that make Ryn enjoyable. It’s her innate skills as a Monk that make her more than just another light fighter. To anyone that claims that finishing moves are useless, Ryn (and Kiricletica before her) put such claims to the question. 

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.

Stealth Ops: Chains of Flame

M_walkthrough_chains_of_flame

Use this map from the DDO Wiki.

Continuing my series on quests that favor a stealthy approach, we explore tactics to use against a very formidable Gnoll stronghold in “Chains of Flame, ” one of the three flagging quests in the Sands of Menechtarun series.

“Chains” can suck on so many levels, literally. Like “Spies in the House,” “Chains” is a multi-level adventure where your quest map is mostly worthless. Being pelted by gnoll archers, fried by elementals or sliced into bits, pelted and fried by numerous traps is the name of the game here. And you’ll need to free at least 15 slaves by speaking with them.

But a stealthy approach will help you infiltrate the fortress where you can better control when and how you attack, and especially control if you’re attacked. Beefing up your ranged attack options isn’t a bad idea for careful use in a few locations.

“Chains” comes in a Heroic and Epic version. The pathing is identical.

With a recent update, “Chains” offers a boatload of XP, making the trip very worthwhile.

Soloing this adventure bites with all the inevitable fighting. Stealth Team Six mode is recommended.

Preparation

Even with an experienced party hacking everything to bits, “Chains” is a very long quest; set aside at least 1 hour. With an experienced guide, it takes about 15 minutes from the Sands desert entrance to make your way to the quest entrance alone.

As with most stealth adventures, hirelings and summoned creatures draw unnecessary attention and may get you killed more than helping you. Be as self-sufficient as you can with self-healing options. Keep any hirelings on passive mode and stationary at all times, and take advantage of their new instant-teleport ability to skip them over deadly places if you’re using them as a healerbot or Divine Vitality fountain.

There are only two distant and hard to access shrines, so resource management is critical. Most importantly, carry Feather Fall, always wear Deathblock for frequent encounters with gnoll mages, and Death Ward when facing superior mages and for the end-fight.

Also carry plenty of Remove Curse and Disease solutions, have at least some Lesser Restoration options, but most importantly carry Fire Resistance and Protection from Fire solutions at hand by the end-fight, as original guild ship amenity fire protections wane after 1 hour if you haven’t a Ranger or other mage in the party.

An optimal stealth party has a Rogue Assassin (assassinations/trapping) or Rogue Mechanic (superior trapping), Ninja Spy (tactical kills, ranged thrown attacks), Ranger (Resists and Camouflage, ranged missile attack) and Bard (buffs, especially Invisibility, Blur, and Haste, charms or Domination, and in the worst case, crowd control). Fewer party members can be more beneficial in some places, but more members naturally help in the expected firefights.

Don’t enter this quest with a weak ranged solution. To lower your resource consumption, you may find that eliminating some attacks from above will make your mission easier before you reach that level. Or, if your party is a mix of agile and non-agile characters, ranged support is essential to save non-agiles from excessive damage.

It’s All About Keys, Slaves and One Lever

Take advantage of the quest article on the DDO Wiki. It will save you time and grief. Maps will detail the proper path that avoids unnecessary backtracking or fighting.

To avoid being redundant, I’m only noting special tactics you can use at certain locations, rather than discussing the pathing. I like to use the wiki’s block diagram map, shown here.

Your primary mode in stealth ops here is infiltration. You will be seen. But you want to minimize your exposure to snipers and mages at all times while transitioning outside of the fortress, along bridges, catwalks and outer paths.

Before opening that first door at quest start, buff up. There aren’t very many “safe” areas (at least, until you clear them), and spells can make noise that attract attention. Park and make passive any hirelings here; most of them cannot sneak and will draw fire that will reveal you. Using uncontrollable summoned creatures is a very bad idea that might increase your aggro and waste resources.

On every door, always stand to its side to avoid being seen by others ahead of the door.

Your mission begins over a long bridge over a big pool of lava. All above you are gnoll snipers with high Spot, ready to pincushion you. In harder difficulties and certainly Epic play, the bridge may be trapped and may have mephits. Stay in Sneak as you move across this first bridge. Halfway across, gnolls will burst through the door ahead. Sneak back to the start’s interior as they’ll stop at that halfway point. Then launch a ranged attack to pull and slay the gnolls inside the start area while keeping the archers outside unawares.

The first section requires you to go to the left doors several times to gain three keys before you can enter the locked door at the right of the first intersection. From there, the path is generally hard to mess up. If you can’t open a door, you’re missing a key.

Treat every exterior path as a sniper kill-zone. There will almost always be snipers above you. As you rise up the fortress, mages and snipers will appear on your level. Never exit without being in Sneak.

If you have one in party, keep your Rogue out in front, not your kill team. There are several deadly fire, spike, spinning blade and swiping blade traps in a few locations.

Cul-de-Sacs

Many intersections will have cul-de-sac doors where other Overseers (holders of keys) reside with guards and some prisoners. Often these levels will have archers and fighters and mages, but also more backup above you, raining down death.

After eliminating Overseers, freeing prisoners and gathering keys, be sure to search out any levels that open paths ahead in the cave. Chests may also be found in these cul-de-sacs, but one will be locked and require a Rogue’s handiwork or a Wizard’s Knock spell.

Shrines, Slaves and Optionals

There are only two shrines. The first you’ll find on your path after opening locked door #1 at intersection #1 on the wiki map. The second requires you to lower a drawbridge and clear enemies guarding it around intersection #9 on the wiki map. Because of this, casters must be careful not to power-cast and have mana reserves if you choose a higher aggressive posture.

Saving Gaspar the Dwarf near intersection #2 requires a high Bluff to cause a fight. If you haven’t a Bluff option in your dialogue with the ogre mage, you can’t save Gaspar. Provoking the mage gives you two keys; one to the Stolen Treasury Key and another door key. Don’t save the dwarf and you’ll still get the pass key but lose the XP and the Stolen Treasury Key. Paradoxically, a Rogue with a high Bluff also likely has a high Open Lock and doesn’t need the Treasury Key.

By intersection 6, you can rescue a minotaur from his fire elemental guards for XP and a chest.

You will certainly find 15 slaves on your path, a required objective, but it’s the 16th slave (whomever your party finds next) that gives you the required Royal Firebrand Key, which opens the chamber of the boss at the very top. So always free the slaves, but remind your party that the 16th slave will give that Firebrand Key to one member of your party, and they have to live long enough to open the boss door. If that party member gets separated or, worse, dies in the lava pool, that key may be irretrievable and the quest must be restarted.

Observant stealth teams might take it as challenge to find every slave. This requires patience, stealth insertion, jumps to areas off the path, even a quick swim through lava if Dimension Door isn’t handy. Without D-Door, I’d strongly recommend that only a Monk at character level 12 perform this, as they will have Abundant Step. An agile Human with the Dragonmark of Passage can whip up a D-Door, too. Otherwise, don’t try to complete this or rescue is impossible.

Getting access to the second shrine near intersection #9 isn’t required, but there are slaves nearby it.

The last locked door has Erath the Blinded. Any party member with Blindness Immunity equipped can take the halfling’s curse, where it will have no effect. If you have a cleric hireling in your party, they’ll likely to remove the curse permanently. Remove Blindness potions, however, do not work against this special curse.

The End-Fight

There are two red-named bosses to slay. One is an efreet that enjoys frying anyone he sees. Kill him first if you have non-Evasion members in your party. The gnoll boss is mostly a fighter with Displacement ability, a Stunning Blow attack and a few other divine attack tricks, but is mostly a bag of HP. He’s often guarded by two Firebrand mages.

Unload all the damage you have throughout this fight. A chest or two awaits you. Picking up the Orb of the Efreet from the left side of the throne ends the quest.

On returning to town, you must speak with the quest giver to gain the Orb of the Djinn (not the “Orb of the Efreet” as noted incorrectly in the video–that’s what you pick up), which is your flagging item for Zawabi.

Video

Many ninja spies died…getting you this video (not).

Grab some popcorn; it’s going to be long. Click on the CC to show the captions. I switched to a less-restrictive caption tool, so these should be easier to read.

Ryncletica had the advantage of Poison damage to dispatch the bosses with relative ease.

 

 

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