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.
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:
- Using a quarterstaff means that you can’t use Stunning Fist.
- The DCs for finishing moves are too low.
- Spell power is too low.
- Not a “magic monk” as seen in films.
- DCs and Wisdom aren’t competitive at end-game fights.
- 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.