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.

 

 

Broken Spokes in the Wheel of Life

wheel_of_life

Samara is ever-present in the world of Dungeons & Dragons Online. We truly reincarnate to improve ourselves. But when should we try to break the cycle?

I have 18 characters. Four are banks. One is a semi-retired Drow Artificer that hasn’t played since before the new enhancements.

One is a halfing L18 Thief-Acrobat Rogue still on its first life and dreadfully confused about herself as she learns the new abilities. A half-Elf Paladin recently met its demise to allow Flynncletica to appear.

The three Ninja Spies, Ryncletica, Szyncletica and Kiricletica, each bring a unique fighting style. Ryn is an unarmed Shadowdancer-enabled L25 Monk in her second life. Szyncletica is a L27 Shiradi Shuricannon also in her second life. Kiricletica is the accomplished hard-solo shortsword master at L26 in her first life.

Pynthetica was a Arcane Archer Ranger in life 1 and is now a pure Zen Archer Monk at level 17.

That leaves two Shintao Monks, Lynncletica the Earth tanker at level 25, and Syncletica herself, refusing to fight much since she seemed too vulnerable for harder Epic play in her second life at level 23. Quintessica rounds out the dojo in her second life as a Henshin Mystic at level 23.

I bore you with this character list because, as you can see, there are far too many of them sitting at Epic levels. It’s time for some of them to start again, to take another cycle in the wheel of life.

But should any of them simply submit to the circle of samara and become a Monk once again? Or should they consider a bit more?

I’m leaning to the more.

Yes, the person that doesn’t teach multiclassing per se in the Monk guide is considering other classes–sort of.

It’s not a tough concept. I have more than enough characters to experiment and learn what others have done before me and have enjoyed. I’m not paving any new ground except for my own fun. As well, I have more than enough characters to explore any tenets of a pure Monk to afford a cross-class training session.

But enlightenment is a bitch, or makes you one.

On Syncletica

As you may know, Syncletica is my first character and my first Monk.

For her third life, I envision that she should explore more of the divine powers and train in Cleric levels. She would still have a minimum of 2 Monk levels but would be a better aid to others.

Else, especially with the new enhancement pass, I should take one more turn as a Wind Stancer, improving her durability to match her speed. I know a lot more about miss-chance, PRR and AC now than when she last left the dojo.

On Ryncletica

Ryn was once a halfling. I see her returning to her original small stature from her life as a human, but with Rogue levels.

Now, I’ve tried and failed to balance a character to have superior Rogue skills while also keeping a monastic fighting style. I’ll need to seriously plan her build with RJ’s Character Builder and read up on other builds before attempting this again.

Else, Ryn could explore a new class. I’ve wanted to explore the Druid, so this is an option.

On Kiricletica

There’s still more to explore with Kiri as a pure Ninja Spy in life 2, so I will not change her design once she reincarnates. She was a blast to play in hard-solo mode.

With her patented Ninja Poison attacks not working with the latest update, she’s in stasis until it’s working again. I’ve been trying to get more bug reports submitted to get this resolved.

On Lynncletica

I’ve told myself time and again that Lynncletica will stay Epic as she was my most durable character and can farm many places for other characters.

That’s changed with Szyncletica; who has done what Lynn has not by surviving Epic Elite adventures alone.

I still want to improve Lynn’s overall capacity to keep and hold attention as a light tanker. She is certainly the strongest self-healer I have, although her DPS is a bit lacking. She was still at L25 when the Update 19 enhancement changes came about, so she’s not as optimized for tanking as she could be with a tweak of enhancements.

I’ll have Lynn and Szyn farm Tokens of the Twelve for themselves and others.

On Szyncletica

I love the Shuricannon build too much to change one bit of Szyn’s abilities. The more past lives for her, the better.

If I do add a new path for her, shortsword work or Ranger prowess isn’t a bad one. She is my strongest Monk and has proven able to complete Epic Elite, solo if necessary, and has even completed a portion of the Shroud alone.

As I said, if Lynn reincarnates, then Szyn stays Epic until Lynn returns to power.

On Quintessica

The Mystic is a really potent staff-wielder with incredible DPS. Only Szyncletica  can claim better numbers. The thread on training an Epic Destiny to boost spell power and damage is quite appealing.

For now I’ll keep Quin in Epic while I add in some points. It will take time since it requires a lot of ED training for sphere hopping to the Arcane side.

Once she does complete this training, a bit of Druidic training might be nice.

Or, is this the time for my first Wizard or Sorcerer? I don’t know.

On Pynthetica

Her experimentation in Zen Archery is coming along well. She’s my first and only character to come from a non-monastic class into the Monk class, so it’s not outside probability to see her try her hand at being an Artificer, or to see if Deepwood Sniper can meld well with her ranged past life and her monastic life.

On Allysen

Allysen is my halfling Acrobat Rogue at level 18 and the oldest character I have to have never reincarnated.

I think I should either use the Lesser Heart of Wood to respec her and get her into Epic Shadowdancer training before I reincarnate her into something else. Would she be the better candidate for a Rogue Monk than Ryncletica? The gear she’s gathered suggests yes.

On the Others

  • I retired my paladin and created Flynncletica. This swashbuckler is a blast to play to the point where I’m neglecting my monastic training.
  • Arcammedes dutifully sits in the crafting hall at L19 in her first life as Artificer. She’s not been on the battlefield for over a year.

I should train her enhancements and at least see her to Level 20 or so. A reincarnation won’t remove her crafting prowess but would completely free her inventory slots for holding stuff. She’s not going anywhere with her crafting levels–and that’s the problem.

  • There’s still a Kensei to train.

Four bank characters now hold a lot of gear. Much of it I gathered long ago in trying to keep a storehouse of gear for any guildmates to use in building a Monk. Now, I think, that time’s past, especially with crafting as an option for any low-level gear I can generate for someone as unbound.

I’m selling off most of this to free up at least one more character slot.

Have I Hit the Wall in the Circle?

As long-time readers of the guide and the blog know, I like to chew through the many permutations of the Monk as a single class.

Generally I’ve studied a class tree’s strengths and weaponized them, such as Kiricletica.

Lately I haven’t been very creative here, generating or adapting new builds. Perhaps it’s my disappointment with a few bugs such as Ninja Poison failing, which has all but stopped Kiricletica’s progress. Maybe my mind is becoming too combat-oriented thanks to the sword-wielding non-Monk, Flynncletica.

Perhaps I haven’t studied the Monk and non-Monk class trees enough to see a new wheel on which to roll a character along in a new path of study.

And perhaps I’m impatient for progress. There is one clear path I haven’t explored with Theacletica as she trains as a Kensei, as I noted.

That’s the problem of samara. Your own limitations prevent you from breaking the cycle of life and death. It’s difficult to move forward sometimes; you feel stuck in a circle, attracted by easy victory or novelty.

I think I require more study. The path of enlightenment is not supposed to be easy.

In any case, I’m open to some suggestions to explore. But be warned that I don’t take change well for change’s sake. I like the diversity of DDO, but the best damage is secondary to the best gameplay, and I’ve not the patience or time for what I see is the tedium of multiclassed tweaking.

It’s Monday, and Sir Geoff of Hanna has posted a nice meditative animation. Yes…calming and peaceful. Enlightenment doesn’t happen in a chaotic mind.

A Monastic Video Showcase

Please stand by.

Please stand by.

After posting videos demonstrating the Heroic level and Epic Shiradi Shuricannon, I was reminded of times where differing opinions at least or flame wars at most occur on the DDO forums on what build or what class(es) and abilities will do this and that.

One thread long ago on the Henshin Mystic turned that way but it caught my ire because the dissenting poster, all the while stating that unarmed damage beats quarterstaff damage, also admitted to having not played a Mystic.

Now, I don’t claim in the slightest to creating or possessing characters that are the optimal for anything except for how I like to play. But my Monks don’t suck outright and do a good job of the one thing they’re meant to do: complete a quest or raid.

But I took offense to that poster because it was clear that their min-maxing multiclassing worldview completely dismissed the idea that something else could possibly work. I’m used to this with the Henshin Mystic. As I’ve said in past posts, I’m likely the only comprehensive resource so far (here and in The Book of Syncletica) on defining the Henshin Mystic class based on its enhancement tree, given it’s only been around for yet quite a year.

Rather than get into a debate of words, I realized I have to apply a social truism: “Pictures or it didn’t happen.”

So I’ll add some moving pictures–they’ll be worth hundreds of thousands of words.

Over the next few weeks I’ll add demonstration videos of the pure Ninja Spy, Henshin Mystic and Shintao Monk, each showing my interpretation of each class’s gameplay. Doing this also exposes my personal style, which you may or may not like.

I’ll choose a quest that illustrates their specialities. For a Shintao, it’ll be a brawling quest where undead, aberrations and extraplanar creatures roost. For a Ninja Spy, it may be a quest where a singular objective requires stealth, cunning and tactics to complete. Lastly, it will be Quintessica that will show what I think the developers had in mind, based on the class tree, of what a Mystic can do with a quarterstaff and their mystical ki powers.

Class trees are simply a launching point for players. There’s no point whatsoever in making a Mystic or any other class using only the racial tree and abilities from only one class tree. A Mystic or Shintao that adds in Shadow Veil for incorporeality miss-chance is going to stand a pounding better, as well as a Ninja Spy that adds in abilities from other trees to improve its attack or defense. None of my characters use only the abilities of their class tree.

That said, the purpose of the demo videos is to help new players decide what playstyle they might consider based on the class tree’s innate skills. It never means that a Shintao can’t use a bow or a Ninja Spy can’t use a staff or a Mystic not use handwraps. Versatility is important. However, effectiveness based on your skills makes sense economically for the action points you spend.

Most importantly, the videos can show what the class does flat out–a good illustrative video for players new to the Monk (the exact purpose of the Monk guide). Shintao Monks are self-healing stun-bot goddesses that are hard to kill. Ninja Spies can avoid half of an army to assassinate with deft blade work or unarmed fighting with a deadly skill set. And a Mystic can take on mobs like Neo takes on an army of Agent Smiths using a metal staff.

So, coming soon, I’ll finally make that video of Mystic Quintessica doing her “Burly Brawl.” Later, Lynncletica, the “Little Mountain” will go where Archons fear to tread, perhaps against an army of devils. Lastly, Kiricletica can represent the Ninja Spies somewhere.

If possible, these movies will get linked into their respective chapters in the Monk guide.

Much later, I’ll give the same treatment to the Elven Arcane Archer Monk and a Kensei Fighter I’m working on.

Totally Trippin’ Mystical Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mystical Grandmaster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healing Speed

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

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

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

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

Defenses

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

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

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

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

Damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trip

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

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

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

Mabar Hijinks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well played, Turbine. Well played.

Mystic needs a strong set of muscles.

Mystical Training: The Good Shepherdess

History and tradition suggests that wielders of shepherd's staves have great power. Using it, much less wisely, isn't a matter of min-maxing.

History and tradition suggests that wielders of shepherd’s staves have great power. Using it, much less wisely, isn’t a matter of min-maxing.

The Henshin Mystic is a curiously different type of Monk, and I’m beginning to see where the developers were going with it. As noted before, when there’s new content or class abilities, I find myself engrossed with playing and discussing it until my eyes turn red, trying to understand all the nuances and advantages and weaknesses as I go.

I’ll try to make this post the last one for the Mystic for a while…I swear atop a pile of orc corpses!

Some DDO forum members have heavily criticized the Mystic as being too light on spell power and special abilities. Being a player that loves to push a pure Monk to its limits without multiclassing, I’ve disagreed with their assessment, based on what I’ve experienced in gameplay. More on that in a bit.

I’ve also had to change my thinking radically on the use of tactical feats as well as how to play this particular Monk.

Most of you are familiar with these feats, although I’ve used them sparingly to this point since the Monk has one famed unarmed combat feat (which gains benefits from tactical DC bonuses) that pales to others: Stunning Fist. No character can stun as rapidly or surely as a Monk, which helps a lot in party tactics.

Now armed with a quarterstaff as a Mystic for practically all fighting and loving it, I was reluctant to give up staff fighting in favor of going unarmed for stunning, no matter how often I can make stuns land. There’s just far more sustained damage with a Mystic and a quarterstaff. More versatility.

There’s incredible versatility of a two-handed weapon like the quarterstaff, especially with Update 19 and the Mystic training. The developers wanted to make the Mystic a very superior quarterstaff attacker. They just didn’t need to rewrite or create a lot of new feats or abilities to make this happen for them. The Mystic’s special ki attacks are just icing to help in crowd level damage, which a Mystic is great at doing better than any other Heroic level Monk or non-spellcaster.

So here are things I have already or have begun to work into and out of my combat routine as well as discoveries that may be a bit noobish for a few of you veterans of sword-and-board fighting. Bear with me.

Out: Stunning Blow

After you’ve enjoyed the speed of unarmed stunning, Stunning Blow is quite disappointing. It’s highly unreliable for me, likely because my STR isn’t quite as high as Fighters at that level who would use it. It also has a far slower cooldown.

I added Blow not long ago to try it out. Since it’s true to its name (and not in a good way), It’s getting swapped out for…

In: Improved Trip

I’ve done some research on which is the better: Stunning Blow or Improved Trip. While a few responses noted that Fighters have enough feat slots to take both, those who didn’t have feat slots out the ying-yang generally favored Improved Trip. On a good DC, it knocks an enemy prone. Not for 6 seconds as with stunning, but for up to 1 full minute. While prone, the enemy can’t do anything. It’s not quite helpless as with stunning, but word on the street is that it is far more reliable.

Improved Trip also has a 10 second cooldown. No rapid use here, but it may be good as part of a chain of attack strategies. It requires Combat Expertise, but I have that already as part of my other combat requirements.

In my early tests, it looks like Improved Trip needs a really high STR to work, so I haven’t much success. Since my attack damage is also tied into STR, it’ll serve to continue adding points to it as much as possible. It may be that I’ll swap this out for something that aids in damage if Trip requires a crapload of DC improvements and STR I cannot muster.

In: Improved Sunder (and eventually, Cleave)

Early in the Monk guide’s second life, I’ve watched several forum members all but require the use of Improved Sunder for better DCs to stun. Improved Sunder gives a similar effect to Improved Destruction in that it damages AC and fortification. Unlike Improved Destruction, Improved Sunder adds a stacking -3 penalty to fortitude saves for up to 24 seconds to make landing tactical attacks easier.

Given that I plan to ensure that my enemies get a good Trip into the afterlife, I’m thinking more of this feat. As an unarmed Monk, we’d spam our elemental attacks, the late lamented Void Strikes of old, and Stunning Fist. With a staff, an Improved Sunder might be the first attack, followed by a Trip attempt.

The challenge here were my remaining feat slots as I approached level 20 and where to fit this one in. I thought of trading off Stunning Fist here and sacrifice my former dominant life as an unarmed stunner. I sacrificed Stunning Blow instead. I kept thinking, as I worked Quintessica to level 20 over the past weekend, that I needed something to “fall back” to if something goes wrong with staff fighting. But really, little has gone wrong. In place of stunning, Quintessica doesn’t let something live long enough to damage her.

Several prerequisites of Legendary Dreadnought abilities require the Cleave feat, despite me having Whirlwind Attack already. I hope to punch that one into Quintessica using one of the Epic Feat slots.

Previously Added: Combat Expertise and Whirlwind Attack

Many players think others are nuts to spend four feat slots and have INT 13 on a Monk to get Whirlwind (Dodge, Mobility, Spring Attack, Combat Expertise), especially if they continue to believe that the feat is bugged for everyone. I have all these feats already trained with Quintessica.

Like the Hide/Move Silently/Jump points I invested in most of my Monks before Update 19’s change to the stealth system, I find myself still justified in taking Whirlwind. It’s a 4(W) attack, folks. What happens if that thing goes critical?

The answer is, about 300-500 damage.

I’m searching about for a paralyzing weapon to help with light crowd control since this attack hits all in its wide attack area.

Combat Expertise is a really good idea for a Mystic. While they get impressive damage ability, their class tree adds practically nothing to their defense. Toggle on this feat and you get a 10% bonus from your total AC added to your AC. Nice, right?

Then all that a Mystic needs to do is to switch to Mountain Stance. In Grandmaster mode, you get (among other things) a 20% bonus to AC. Better, right?

How ’bout this? Combat Expertise and Grandmaster of Mountains bonuses add together. I get a 30% AC bonus in this mode. That is superior. With Quin now at level 20, this stance is often where I keep her.

Strength and Damage

The quarterstaff is a stronger weapon than a one-handed blade. The advantage comes from how damage is calculated. With a single blade, you add your STR modifier to your melee attack roll and your damage roll. If you wield a two-handed weapon such as a staff, your damage roll is 1.5 times your STR modifier. Ow. That’s hefty.

That brings me to Power Attack. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with this one, likely because I nerfed myself when taking this and also taking Weapon Finesse on my early unarmed builds, screwing with my attack rolls, I think, while fighting with less STR.

With Power Attack, one-handed weapons (and unarmed attacks) exchange 5 from the attack roll for 5 damage. But quarterstaves double this bonus, exchanging 5 attack for 10 damage. Hefty, hefty, hefty.

Let’s add in the Mystic’s Staff Training and Staff Specialization that adds to-hit and damage and ultimately raises the critical threat and range. More hefty.

So the quarterstaff’s simplicity belies its effectiveness. Now all one needs to do is to use the right one, as mentioned in a recent post.

The New Spam: It’s Got More Spam in It

As mentioned before, a Monk’s unarmed attack pattern is commonly  a flurry of blows designed to (1) halt a target (2) damage it severely (3) kill it quickly (duh). This is often done by starting with a  (1) Stunning Fist, (2) chained elemental attacks and some finishing moves often peppered in to heal or buff or debuff, and (3) Stunning Fist again. If you have Improved Destruction, use Improved Sunder or use neg-leveling Life Stealing effects, you can keep a target immobile in a state of permanent stun to their death.

But a staff-wielding Mystic has to think “fighter” and less monastic. I suspect the results should be as good, if not better, than in unarmed mode (I can’t believe I just said that).

So, at first I imagined Quin beginning with an (1) Improved Sunder to reduce AC, fortification and fortitude save, (2) Improved Trip to knock them on their ass, (3) a Quick Strike mode, adding 25% doublestrike to the mix for 10 seconds while (4) spamming elemental, Void Strike attacks and chaining finishing moves as she goes, repeating the sundering and tripping as needed. She kicks on Power Attack for more stubborn enemies but otherwise keeps defenses up with Combat Expertise, switching to different Monk stances as ki management and defenses require.

This should be a great attack chain–but it’s wrong. Not against solo enemies, but mobs. That’s where the Mystic does its magic.

Quintessica reached level 20 this past weekend. As I began training her Legendary Dreadnought skills, I took Quin into “Lines of Supply,” a new and creative Stormhorns quest. There, several caravans of enemies emerge from a cave, some moving slowly to their destination, others zerging. They don’t stop to fight you; they have orders to keep moving. Depending on the enemy’s speed and durability, you have a very limited time to destroy them before they reach the end of the path and out of your reach.

My Onyx Panther and a hireling (for Death Ward and a little healing when he thinks of doing it) began the counterassault at approximately 12-15 enemies at once. I threw Incinerating Wave (a targetable, moving Wall of Fire and Force damage) as fast as the 9 second cooldown allowed to soften up the group. I mosh-pit into the mob and spin away with Whirlwind to knock more sense out of them, then break out and repeat.

I only had a problem with the gnolls, who fly by in a hasted rush and require a more direct knockdown or paralysis to slow long enough to kill. I couldn’t blast them all fast enough.

After this interesting and different quest was done, I thought of what Quin could’ve done if I had her Grandmaster of Flowers powers activated.

The Good Shepherdess of Bad, Bad Sheep

Not quite as peaceful as this Good Shepherd. Less Messianic overtones. More use of the stick.

Not quite as peaceful as this Good Shepherd. Less Messianic overtones. More use of the stick.

As mentioned a moment ago, I came across a DDO forums thread with comments from many players on what they like and don’t like about the Mystic. There was a mixed level of supporters versus dissenters.

I’ve read through the entire thread to-date to sum up the general arguments against the Mystic.

The first 5 are from the original poster:

  1. Using a quarterstaff means that you can’t use Stunning Fist.
  2. The DCs for finishing moves are too low.
  3. Spell power is too low.
  4. Not a “magic monk” as seen in films.
  5. DCs and Wisdom aren’t competitive at end-game fights.
  6. We can’t play the Mystic like an unarmed Monk.

I chimed in favor of the Mystic’s good qualities. No surprise, there.

The most common complaint suggests a sense of failed expectations on the part of some players. They expected a LOT more “Mystic” to the point where the class tree would appear magical. I can appreciate their imaginations. However, implementing something new like the Mystic had to have some checks and balances. Further…and this is important since this is a form of D&D we’re talking about–the 3.5e ruleset of the pen-and-paper class that our Mystic is based on (named there as a Henkan Mystic) isn’t staff-dominant, is still ki-based and still wields fire damage on attacks. It’s far less “uber” or magical in that version than the DDO counterpart.

Stunning Fist is working as intended. Emphasis on the fist part. You can play the Mystic without the staff and stun things. But that’s not where it’s training goes.

It’s not as if the dissenters are new to DDO, and they have lots of play experience, so I’m not trying to vilify them. But here are my points to support the Mystic class tree’s abilities, especially now that I’ve reached level 20 and can see more clearly where the Mystic path continues.

As I did early on in playing the Mystic, some posters lost sight on the Mystic as a different kind of fighter that works with more Fighter class principles, not Monk. And they’re totally wrong on the quarterstaff damage and the Fire/Force damage numbers that I’ve seen.

I capped off my comment to remind people that the Mystic is a new class tree. Like the Ninja and Shintao lines, it takes time for it to mature.

So here’s my summations.

1) The Mystic is designed to be a mob-harassment character.

Combined with Incinerating Wave to weaken a mob, the Mystic uses their monastic skills to evade and dodge attacks, delivering death by bludgeoning to those who get too close, while pouring on the Fire and Force damage. In Heroic mode, the player has to think outside of the unarmed Monk box and more as a typical Fighter, adding in Cleave and similar tactical feats for improving weapon damage, while adding in the more offensive ki strikes. Stunning is not to be for the Mystic–but mass damage to mobs is the thing.

That doesn’t mean at all that a Mystic isn’t a decent fighter. Far from it! The right staves deliver harsh damage. But, like any other character, you often need to add in a special attack to gain an advantage–you can’t just go in swinging. For unarmed Monks, it’s Stunning Fist. For the Mystic, you send in an Incinerating Wave in Heroic, or something else. Unlike a ranged player, the Mystic does hold still for some fighting, but needs a little distance to throw a few effects to keep the mobs forming up ahead of her, and easy prey for the rest of the party.

You don’t play the Mystic as a typical Monk. That’s refreshing, and leaves room to explore.

By level 20, my Incinerating Wave deals 100 or more combined damage–more if the spell critical hits, if I’m wearing spell power boosts or if the enemy is especially vulnerable.  That’s a very good start against a mob, particularly if you can do it every 9 seconds while they’re just chasing you around for a bit before you smack them about like gnats after a few passes.

2) Grandmaster of Flowers mode will be so wickedly-powerful in combination with a Mystic that it’s almost overpowered.

When Quintessica reached level 20, she trained her last core ability, Serenity. It’s a vestigial part of the old Monk capstone that mates well. She got +2 WIS, +10 Concentration, +1 to passive ki regeneration and +25 to Fire and Force spell power and more to critical chance to that damage.

What most Monks see at level 20 is that their ki bar has greatly improved with nice level of regeneration, often going to perhaps less than 1/2 filled after a few minutes of idle. Most Monks see +1 or +2 at this point to passive ki regeneration.

Quintessica sees +2 to +6, depending on if she’s in Ocean Stance, has less than 50% health, and has Grandmaster of Flowers destiny up or has twisted one ability called Enlightenment. By the time her ki bar stops filling while idle, it’s 3/4 full, around 280 ki.

This would be like a spellcaster’s Echoes of Power getting a boost to regenerate mana five-fold, I figure. Quin has massive reserves of regenerating power.

In short, with all of the Flower power attacks, the magic-balls of Lily Petal and Orchid Blossom, the knockdown-rich stomp and magic slam of Drifting Lotus, combined with the Mystic’s own powers of melee and ki damage, make this class a whirling dervish of death. Spellcasters can be too fragile and generate too much aggro if they target too much at once. The Mystic wants this attention. Not so much as a tanker, but to keep a mob aggravated, weakened and chasing them–while the rest of the party clobbers them from behind.

A Mystic is a staff-wielding shepherd that leads her sheep to the slaughter with attacks that damage from afar and compel the evil sheep to follow, lining up for their doom. They’re more durable than many casters and can regenerate power to fight far longer.

3) A Mystic in full combat mode using the Legendary Dreadnought mode has heartstopping potential.

Where the Mystic comes up short in Heroic mode: More HP and STR, is compensated in Dreadnought mode. Quin will also have more tactical DCs for Improved Sunder and Trip. More PRR from Improved Combat Expertise. More area-of-effect damage swings from Momentum Swing and Lay Waste (once I divorce myself of one more feat or add Cleave for this prerequisite). Attack Boosts, especially Haste, that, combined with Quick Strike, should make terribly, ridiculously quick work of even Red-Named bosses. There’s also the Lightning Mace strike with a staff, which will deliver 10d100 electrical damage and 15% enhancement to doublestrike for 6 seconds.

Since the Mystic should be training up the non-monastic tactical feats such as Cleave, that leads them to charging up the LD’s Epic Moment: the Master’s Blitz.

When I used this with Lynncletica in an Epic Hard “Devil Assault,” I mopped the floor in that place! As you know, Lynncletica is my tanker and has impressive damage in unarmed mode. But Quin’s attacks at level 20 often exceed L25 Lynn’s, and Quin is barely back in her Epic jammies.

Add in the spin attacks and LD strikes with the Blitz, and Quin should be the most powerful fighter in my dojo.

Guess I’m going to have to throw some screenshots up with piles of dead Drow at my feet.

The Burly Brawl, DDO Style

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

One mob? One quarterstaff, then.

When I play with one of my characters, I often do so in a binge of weeks at a time before switching to another one. My current binge is with Quintessica and her new skills as a Henshin Mystic.

As you know, they use quarterstaffs to fight (albeit not exclusively). As a traditional weapon, unlike handwraps (which aren’t weapons, so the Monk’s innate damage is calculated from the character in unarmed fighting), I have to think long and hard as to how to generate the most damage per swing, and to effectively make as many swing attempts as possible.

With level 17 in the bank, I keep having dreams of what I’ll be able to do as I reach Level 20.

Doublestrike Power and STR

A Mystic gains quarterstaff training that’s similar to the Rogue Acrobat (and, as of this 19.2 Update, skills of these trees still appear to stack, for those Min/Maxers playing at home). So far, the two things I’m looking at are higher STR and greater doublestrike.

My Heroic-level doublestriking was (a still impressive) 32.50% for 10 second bursts while in Wind Stance and using the Quick Strikes ability at level 16. By level 18 now, it sees for Heroic at 35% (10% Grandmaster of Wind with Quick Strikes). With Power Attack active, it’s a blast to beat-down many enemies using Quick Strikes while spamming Void Strike and elemental form attacks like crazy. Quick Strike is a Morale bonus so adding Doublestrike prefix gear won’t help. Wind Stance adds doublestrike as an Enhancement bonus. I don’t run in Wind Stance generally due to its weaker defenses, but it sure helps in getting your Training Dummy “Hours of Practice” buff very rapidly. (The poor thing.) I won’t be hanging around Wind Stance for too long since it generates an average amount of ki and it’s a stance with fewer defenses.

Oh, I almost forgot the Fabricator’s Gauntlets and Fabricator’s Bracers. The unlocked set adds that Cannith Combat Infusion that procs often enough, adding some AC and a 5% Alchemical bonus to doublestrike. So, if all the stars align at level 18, Quintessica’s doublestrike ranges between 35 to 40% with Quick Strike, Ultimate Wind Stance and/or the Infusion going off.

And there’s more I might gain with stacking untyped doublestrike in Epic levels from Grandmaster of Flowers, maybe another 3 to 6%, A flickering dream tells me of Epic Gianthold’s Flawless Black Dragonscale Robes, with its matching Epic Helm of the Black Dragon, give a stacking 3% Artifact doublestrike bonus that I can dream of obtaining after several “Caught in the Web” episodes.  (n.b.: I had the wrong set mentioned here earlier; it’s the Black set, not White, that gives the 3%.)

STR determines damage with a quarterstaff, and the weapon isn’t typically Finesse-qualified. Perhaps more so than with my tanker, Lynncletica, I’ll need as high a STR as I can make for Quintessica to generate higher damage. As much as I love the Mystical Fire and Force spell-like abilities, they aren’t going to take down whole mobs immediately, but will damage them significantly enough from staff fighting for me and my party to whittle them down faster.

So, where does a Heroic pure Monk go to get more damage from here?

Quin uses Whirlwind Attack, which does work well quite well in mobs (and doesn’t appear to be bugged). I don’t think there’s enough feats to add Cleave and Great Cleave, but perhaps I could consider Improved Sunder for this build to bust down the armor protections faster.

Damn it, but I can’t stop thinking of Quin in Epic mode. Crunching doublestrike gets me excited. She’ll have 25% (Quick Strike, 10 secs, Morale bonus), Grandmaster of Wind (10%, sustained, enhancement bonus), Running with Wind (Grandmaster of Flowers tier 2, 3% sustained in Wind Stance, untyped), Hail of Blows (GMoF tier 2, 3%, sustained, untyped). If the Fabricator’s set is worn and it procs, that’s another 5% Alchemical bonus for 6 seconds. That’s a total of 25%+10+3+3+5 = 46% maximum doublestrike (16% sustained in Wind Stance, 6% without it).

And what happens if I train as Legendary Dreadnought’s Lightning Mace and later twist in both tier 2 GMoF abilities?

That’s 25%+15+3+3+5+5% (LD, Lightning Mace, 15% enhancement for 6 seconds, or +5 with Wind Stance, one overwriting since they both enhancement bonuses, and Cannith Combat Infusion) = a maximum, theoretical and brief 56% doublestrike chance (10+3+3 = 16% chance in Wind Stance, 6% without it).

Then add another 3% from a full Flawless Dragonscale set. Brief 59% doublestrike, 19% sustained in Wind Stance.

That’s a lot of Twists of Fate, a lot of luck and a lot of grinding time. Not even sure if that’s viable in battle, but achieving a fraction of this speed should be good. Imagine all that going off in whole or in part with LD action haste or damage boosts.

The Big F’n Stick Thread

During some research, I found this long-running DDO forums thread on how players have worked on maximizing quarterstaff damage over the years. At over 118 pages, I’m still reading it.

The one thing I’ve taken away from that thread is the joy of glancing blows, an ability inherent with quarterstaves. Effectively, there’s yet a chance for additional attacks with this in effect.

The Two Handed Fighting line improves this opportunity to insane levels that I I really want to use. I’d like to put a point or more into the Fighting Style ability and choose the Great Weapon Aptitude option: Glancing blows produced by your two-handed weapon attacks have a +2%/+4%/+6% increased chance of producing magical weapon effects such as flaming. There are 3 ranks that require the latter two THF feats that I may not have slots to improve, but we’ll see. Between doublestriking and this, there should be much bashing.

I spent quite a lot of feats to get Whirlwind Attack, which is equally worthy and adds needed Dodge to this defense-weak build, in my opinion. I have a few feat slots left as I move to 20, so I’m grooming to take these feats for more attacks.

Emulating the Burly Brawl

Glasses: check. Longcoat-like robe: check. Big f'n stick: Check. Attitude: Oh yeah.

Glasses: check. Longcoat-like robe: check. Big f’n stick: Check. Attitude: Oh yeah. Neo, eat your heart out.

I’m a huge fan of The Matrix movie series. My second-favorite fight in the movies is known as the “Burly Brawl.” There, Neo (the One, who really knows kung-fu and 57 other ways to fight) must use everything he knows to fight out a respawning army of rogue, viral, former agent Smiths. The ass-kicking is simply intense, as both Neo and the Smiths are Made of Diamond, neither one being able to harm the other, only knock each other or throw them away temporarily.

Neo fights unarmed for two thirds of the encounter. He holds his own well enough with 5 to 10 Smiths. Neo is Harried by 20-30 and begins to be overwhelmed by 50.

Neo thinks out of the box and improvises a quarterstaff, pulled out of concrete and away from its former role as an iron playground pole or fence post.

Then the fun starts. Neo starts wiping the floor with the 50, turning most of the Smiths into balls in a batting cage. It takes another 50 Smiths to slow Neo down again before he decides to fly away to escape, leaving the match (barely) at a draw.

For those who haven’t seen it or need their memory refreshed, here’s a video clip. It’s one of the first uses of digitized versions of people mixed in with live, choreographed fights. (You’ll know it’s digital Neo when his shoes change appearance to a raised heel, while Keanu wears a flatter sole.) My favorite fight, later in the Merovingian’s chateau, is all live action wire-fu, twice as badass and a far better music track to go with the fighting. Neo shows his Weapon Master Fu throughout this one.

There’s a perfect place (two, really) where I look forward to Quintessica emulating much of these fights. In her first life, she’s taken on the devils in “Devil Assault” solo. But it’s the continuous, multiplicative terror of spawns in the end fight of “The Weapons Shipment” where every Shintao Monk I own has had to show their mettle.

Going solo there, the speed of the fighting and the amount of enemies mean that finishing moves is all you have time for without getting slammed. all but preventing use of items to heal. You have to keep yourself going entirely through fighting prowess, vampiric effects and ki.

In this case, the need to deal with multiple attacks left Lynncletica and Syncletica more vulnerable as solely-unarmed fighters. But in her second life, Quintessica’s staff work might make things far more interesting. Her Fire attacks will be largely ineffective against devil-spawn, so maximizing her Force damage will be critical. Lots and lots of Whirlwind Attacks with the Woo-Woo Stick to maximize the area-of-effect, negative levels and glancing blows (combined with Seeker and related effects), in addition to Every Light Casts a Shadow to mass-neg-level as I can. Weaken your enemy to strengthen yourself.

My biggest worry is that she won’t have as much healing amplification as I’d like. But then, a Mystic is a dervish and hardly stands still long enough to get attacked.

I’ll likely start her working things unarmed to build ki and keep up. Then the Big Stick comes out by the time the Orthons appear, at the latest, and I will not walk softly at all.

The Stick of Destiny

As to which stick to use in there? Maybe I’ll have a Green Steel Mineral II or Lightning II crafted by then. Otherwise it’s the Metalline of Pure Good crafted stick.

Very recently, an awesome high-powered guildmate escorted my level 18 self to the Dreaming Dark’s hideaway and blasted him for quick access to his Dreamforge.

There, I had enough essences to unlock two weapons: Rahl’s Might and my now-fully upgraded Dreamspitter. I have a Holy Crystal, life-stealing, Force Bursted, Evil Outsider WOO-WOO STICK now. And the Rahl’s is a Force Bursted slashing crit monster. I pulled a few 300 criticals with that thing!

The Dreamspitter’s many neg-level songs of Woo against mobs during a guild run into “Friends in Low Places” were so constant that I was practically crooning like Perry Como. So my personal nickname for my Dreamspitter is now officially my “Perry COMA Stick”.

Quin’s staff-based Burly Brawl won’t happen for at least one or two more levels. Quin needs more boosts to healing amplification from the racial tree, some Two Handed Fighting, and the Fabricator’s Ingenuity set. At level 20, getting that awesome Stout Oak Walking Stick would be nice going in there, as well as wearing more protective gear.

One critical deficit that I’ve always had with Quintessica’s lesser reliance on the old Prestige paths that boosted HP is simply keeping those hit points high enough to be a reliable melee. At level 16, she was a bit sickly at 300. I grabbed some Argonessen favor for 10 more HP, and now armed with an Alchemist’s Pendant, more ki on hit and 10 more HP to make Earth Stance a viable option.

She has fair Dodge numbers (16%) but her work is so ki-intensive that blurring herself steals attack options and she hasn’t AP just yet to add to adding Shadow Veil for Ghostly or improving racial traits just yet. Sounds like I’ll need to put a perma-blur item somewhere here. An epic Ring of Shadows might be the best tactical option.

Hopefully I’ll make some time to make a video of this fight to post here (with music, cued to “The Burly Brawl” music from the movie soundtrack) with the results when that day comes. No link or it didn’t happen, right?

The Avatar is Dead, Long Live the Avatar!

Henshin Mystic: The new path of the "avatar."

Henshin Mystic: The new path of the “avatar.”

You may remember my pride in Quintessica, my one Monk who had mastered all Grandmaster elemental forms, like Aang in the “Avatar: The Last Airbender” animated series.

With Update 19, everyone gets all elemental stances, right up to Grandmaster, as feats, automatically. It leaves Quintessica’s original design as a bit useless. I still thought possessing all elemental forms overpowers the class right up to yesterday’s debut.

That said, I mourned the death of Quintessica’s build, then decided for something different.

If Quintessica already has elemental form mastery, perhaps she can attain a new level of mastery. Something that blends both sides of the Monk philosophy–weapons or no weapons. Light and Dark.

Logging into Quin recently, I retrained her in the ways of the Henshin Mystic.

Spell-Like Abilities

The good news is that Henshins are effectively spellcasters that use ki. The devs specialized them to wield a quarterstaff to great effect in damage while also throwing incredible Fire and Force damage with a few area of effect attacks. They don’t have many spell-like abilities, but they also gain improvements in weapon damage.

That means that spell power is as big a thing for Henshins as for Wizards and Sorcerers. Spell power increases the damage of a particular element or power, be it Light or Negative Energy.

I don’t play any spellcasters except a Cleric and an Artificer, and their job doesn’t emphasize damage as much (or I just suck at playing them). That said, I needed to learn more on spell power.

For casters, they often get metamagic feats that can greatly boost their spell power for more damage. That’s nice and all, but for the Henshin, this is a pickle. Ki is mystical but not magic. Therefore, they haven’t any metamagic abilities to boost damage. They appear entirely dependent on the Henshin tree’s various abilities for spell power boosts to Fire and Force, throughout their lives as inherent abilities. Whether these numbers are offset by the class’s melee damage to form a character that works as well as some spell casters is the big question I have as yet to play out with Quintessica’s new form.

After inherent abilities, implement, equipment  and alchemical bonuses from items have to do. Quarterstaves often have these as part of their nature. So the crazy amount of Thamaturgy staffs out there might be useful.

I wonder if taking a level or two of a Sorcerer or Wizard (I’d lean to the Wiz) to get basic metamagic feats would help here, and if that spell power boost would work with the Henshin’s ki attacks. Given the overhead of such a thing, I’m not sure if I’ll ever try this.

Melee Combat

Quarterstaves aren’t bad for damage, but they wear out very quickly. If I’m going to love any quarterstaff, I’d better attune them so they don’t take permanent damage. Quarterstaves are also bludgeoning weapons so they’re no more useful against zombies than your fists.  Best to keep a pair of kamas handy.

The stance “Lighting the Candle” is great to add Fire damage to any wielded weapon or unarmed combat.

Remember the elemental debuffing moves needed by the old Dark Monks to get Touch of Death? These are now part of the Henshin class tree. Activate any of these attacks to give an enemy a 10% vulnerability to an element. Fire is a Henshin’s prime damage dealer, so spamming the All-Consuming Flame debuffer will be nice to do.

Quin had amassed many handwraps that helped in unarmed damage reduction, so she needn’t take any Shintao stuff. She already knows how to get the most of any elemental stance. She just needed some quarterstaves, some points in the Henshin tree and continue her schooling.

Disadvantages

Henshins aren’t dependent on a staff but they help with spell power if they have any properties. Should you choose to go as an unarmed Henshin, your spell-like abilities that boost Fire and Force damage will be less than when wielding a staff.

As with any weapon, a staff is ultimately slower than fighting unarmed and, as noted, suffer greater damage. The Henshin tree boosts damage using the Quick Strikes ability for improving doublestrike for a brief time. Since you’ll get the full Air Stance training, a Henshin in Air Stance should be a DPS monster. They also improve their Critical Threat Range and Multiplier, thankfully.

Many players questioned the emphasis on Fire during the beta because, well, some of the nastiest enemies are Fire-frickin’-immune, such as the devils of Shavarath. That means that Henshins need greater Force damage with their area-of-effect skills or go toe-to-toe with more melee damage. Of the two spell powers, Force is what I’ll be looking to find more to add. There are a handful of powerful quarterstaves, such as an unlocked Dreamspitter, that have great Force Burst damage.

You can’t just go to a vendor to buy “ki potions.” This energy is generated only by fighting early on. The Henshin gains several abilities with ki generation in mind as they train. First, they gain extra Meditations. Other Monks get only 2 per rest. The Henshin may have as many as 5, if I count right. It’s going to be rough going for Henshins in that using shrines to restore Meditations used in high-level abilities means that you also destroy your accumulated ki.

Thankfully, Henshins do improve on their passive ki regeneration. Think of it like the spellcaster’s “Stir of Echoes”, but allows a larger regeneration to the character’s stable pool, where ki generated and lost achieve a balance. At level 20, a Henshin should have a vast supply and should be able to regenerate faster than other Monks. That said, Quin has been mostly in Fire Stance to build ki, and she’s slower to do so than when unarmed (more damage per second). Hopefully this means that standing about in Ocean Stance with these effects will passively regenerate 3 or 4 ki per 6 seconds at high level.

Lastly, the Henshin’s defenses are somewhat weak in that there’s little in the class tree to improve AC, saves or miss-chance. You’ll need good gear as a melee-happy Henshin. STR determines a Stunning Blow success, but lower DEX means less Reflex and AC bonus. You’ll need WIS for a large ki pool.

Is this what GamerGeoff meant by the “Return of the DEX build?”

The Master of All Finishers

While revamping the Monk guide for Update 19, I realized I hadn’t a page that listed every available finishing move. So I made a new chapter.

There are 17 finishers in all. Shintao Monks and Ninja Spies can perform 11 of the 17  (theoretically, adding in the currently-broken level 10 finishers). Five finishers are philosophy-restricted. You can’t use Dance of Clouds as a Dark Monk because you have Fists of Darkness. Likewise, a Light Monk can’t use Freezing the Lifeblood without Fists of Darkness.

But the Henshin, thanks to two Tier 5 abilities, has the ability to perform all 17 finishers.

The first of the two tier 5 abilities, Balance in Dawn allows you to select a ki strike with a powerful effect but one that’s opposite of your chosen philosophy. Effectively, if you are a Light adherent, you gain a Fists of Darkness with a slower cooldown. For Dark Monks, a slower Fists of Light.

Unlike their normal counterparts, using Balance in Dawn strikes has a massive effect on allies (for Light) or enemies (for Dark).

  • Every Light Casts a Shadow: Cost: 15 Ki, Cooldown: 12 seconds. Dark ki melee attack: Perform an attack with +2[W] damage. On Damage: Target suffers 1d4 negative levels. If the target dies within 10 seconds, all nearby enemies suffer 1d2 negative levels.
  • Shadows Cannot Exist Without Light: Cost: 15 Ki, Cooldown: 6 seconds. Light ki melee attack: Perform an attack with +2[W] damage. On Damage: Target suffers 1d6 Light damage every 2 seconds for 10 seconds. This can stack up to 10 times. If the target dies within 10 seconds, all allies around the target receive 100 Positive Energy healing. (This healing effect is unaffected by Spell Power.)

This move does allows a Henshin to use the Healing Ki finisher, or the Touch of Despair finisher, and unlocks any moves that require them. In party battle, a Henshin can really upset a mob’s advantage in numbers or give decent party support.

Finally, there’s the matter of Void attacks and the second of two attacks to unlock the Master state. Update 19 removed all original Void Strike attacks (all enhancements) and gave one and only one to the Henshin–the counterpart to “Void Strike IV,” now just Void Strike, a tier 5 ability.

Void Strike does the same as in the past: massive Force damage with a vorpal confirmation sending the enemy to nothingness.

For other Monks to attain this attack this means not only a substantial use of AP that gimps their other trees, but will also lock them into the Henshin tier 5 and out of other trees. That means that the level 10 finishers can’t really be used by other Monks except a Henshin that takes Void Strike. (Hopefully the devs will add a low-level Void Strike as a trainable feat to rectify this someday.)

Hm. That “avatar” style looks to be back on the menu.

The key here is to do what few Monks do: Take advantage of all of the finishers in daily life.

I’m talking more of the core finishers that all Monks can do, which are typical spamming one element three times to form the finisher. Then there’s the matter of the level 10 finishers, of which the Henshin (at present) is the only one capable of using.

So, a Master of All Finishers? How does that play out in practice?

Stay tuned and see. A Henshin that can burn and break, debuff, neg-level, burst healing effects, and charm enemies has got to have some joy to it.

(Note: I know that the Dark portion of Balance in Dawn is as bugged as the Ninja Spy’s Wave of Despair in that it gives negative levels to allies. I learned as well that you can neg-level yourself with it! Whoops. A workaround is to hand out Death Ward to everyone to easily fix this until the devs resolve the problem, if it’s not working as intended.)