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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The Shintao Guardian

portrait-lynncletica1Hi, all.

In real-life news, I just received a job offer. No more potential as a real-life mendicant. That news lets me relax just a little before my job prep to get a long-requested build to you.

As I mentioned before, I’ve been using Lynncletica, my Little Mountain Shintao Monk, as a very successful and potent tank in nearly 35 Deathwyrm runs (all difficulties) and several other raids.

In Legendary Hound of Xoriat, Lynncletica easily held aggro on Zyzzy and her puplings with Ki Shout and an effective 105 Intimidate in an Legendary Normal run. She was doing fine in Legendary Hard but has yet to complete. That’s a tough challenge even with a prepared party with great coordination, and you don’t win raids alone.

So what makes her special? Not too much. It’s time to share that.

  • Fortification: Unyielding Sentinel is the central tanking destiny. With a +70 Insightful Fortification helm, Brace for Impact, and the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, Lynn sits at 286% to 315% Fortification.
  • Miss-chance: 27% Dodge, 10% Incorporeal with an item, 20-25% Concealment. All with gear but Blur can be done through the Wind/Light/Wind Monk finishing move.
  • AC: Improved Combat Expertise, Combat Expertise, Ultimate Earth Stance and other gear for around 138 to 158 AC based on buffs and gear.
  • PRR: 158 to 180. This really absorbs a lot of damage combined with the usual Monk abilities in effect.
  • HP: Around 1200-1400. She can take several hits without flinching.
  • Healing amplification: 180-270. Typical 180 when tanking to maximize defense. Can use Healing Ki for 400+ HP heal every 10 seconds. Rejuvenation Cocoon also improved. These numbers make for 400-600 HP from a Cure Light Wounds spell.
  • Concentration skill: 101-105. Ki Shout makes this the Intimidation skill with solid aggro and threat generation from Earth Stance and Unyielding Sentinel. What’s mine stays mine.

Lynn’s gear at level 30 isn’t particularly special. Her design leverages more STR (2:1 ratio). at 50 STR to 24 DEX to optimize damage but gain some Reflex saves and AC. Feats that add PRR or damage absorption improve durability in fights. With a bit of juggling of special buffs and gear, Lynn can briefly reach 75 STR needed for levers in Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine.

CON is the highest stat at 55 base, as Monks gain only 75% HP per level as others. But this works well as high CON and Insightful CON items are worn.

For Epic feats, I chose Guardian Angel, Elusive Target and Epic Damage Reduction to soak or avoid additional damage. Dire Charge helps offensively for aggro control. The Legendary feat I chose was Scion of Limbo. Monks are used to one-minute buffs, and the many variations possible were all positive ones, either augmenting defense or offensive regularly without me having to do anything. You could also consider other Legendary feats to give a fixed defensive or offensive bonus.

With handwraps such as Storm’s Harness, Epic Scraps of Enlightenment and now some Complete Thunder-Forged Handwraps with Mortal Fear, Lynn’s innate metal-bypass has no problem hurting what she needs to hurt and well. Stunning Fist is available with a high WIS item switch-out, bringing the ability to a useable level, boosting AC a bit. However, raids rarely allow you to stun much.

The general gear list includes things that primarily enhance defense. These items may be merged or adjusted using Cannith Crafting or other items.

I didn’t add the Twists to the build. I strongly recommend Rejuvenation Cocoon and Brace for Impact (If not in Unyielding Sentinel) no matter what else you select. Enlightenment from Grandmaster of Flowers is good. Also, Standing with Stone for more stacking PRR while in Earth Stance. Improved Combat Expertise from Legendary Dreadnaught adds more PRR.

Like many builds, there’s much flexibility in what you take, just as long you don’t remove much of the special damage reduction or HP benefits. Adjusting WIS and DEX to lower levels will impact AC and saves. Naturally, use Yugoloth favor potions and DDO Store elixirs for added power.

Attached is a PDF file of the build. (WordPress has limitations for what I can upload.) Open the file using Adobe Reader or other PDF reader, copy the text and paste it into a text editor such as Notepad and save it as ShintaoGuardian.txt. You should be able to import the text file directly in Character Builder Lite to adjust as you see fit.

Shintao-Guardian

 

Keeping Shadow at Bay

Hours after the last post on preparing for Lynncletica’s first epic raid tanking, I remembered at the last minute that a raid was scheduled that same day.

I made the decision to move the Little Mountain to hold back the Sibilant Shade, Aurgoloroasa, in “Temple of the Deathwyrm.”

The most-excellent raid group, formed from several different guilds, met for their twice-weekly run into Thunderholme. To survive trying to tank the dragon, I needed one thing: Level 27. With sufficient work on my destinies that wouldn’t jeopardize future XP too much, I leveled up, added Epic Damage Reduction for 10 PRR more, and pulled the level 27 Guardian’s Cloak from my reincarnation cache for desperately-needed DR against slash and pierce damage.

In Unyielding Sentinel destiny, I checked my gear and looked at my twists. With 3 fate points available, I upgraded the second slot and added Fury of the Wild’s Damage Reduction for 6 PRR more.

I hoped to wear the Epic Mentau’s Goggles for Ghostly through the raid. However. the dragon’s occasionally deadly breath attack debuffs Death Ward, leaving you vulnerable to excessive negative energy damage without Deathblock. Unable to upgrade a slot in time for the raid for an inexpensive yellow augment, it was back to wearing some Green Steel goggles I’ve trusted for this.

The raid was smooth and uneventful and fast as we made our way to the top, fortunately avoiding the taxing Jump and Red Light/Green Light intermediate rooms for the Trap and Tower Combat rooms.

Then the moment of truth came. I checked both my Intimidate and Concentration skills. Ki Shout would be my more dominant intimidate but I added the Intimidate button to my toolbar just in case. I learned later, not surprisingly, that they share cooldowns like Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot.

With a quick check of my defense/healing gear, off I went.

lynn-dw1.jpg

My plan was simple and similar to any tanks before me: Intimidate by either skill and keep striking the dragon. As a Monk, I wanted to build ki for Healing Ki when needed, use Rejuvenation Cocoon if Healing Ki becomes interrupted. In short, I’m continually healing as I fight, so as not to require a dedicated healer.

Things have gotten wild in other DW runs, especially if the tank loses control or the crowd controlling party that manages the Kuldjarghs and respawns become overwhelmed. I needed to be as self-sufficient as possible, and Lynn’s training and gear did not disappoint. Thankfully, Aurgoloroasa hasn’t any other special attacks, and as a Shintao Monk, I had a few special protections to help against undead even as powerful as her.

I would like to see if the Shock and Awe effect that dragons throw out can be offset by the Monk’s anti-stun finisher, Grasp the Earth Dragon. I hadn’t time to throw a buff for it at the time. (A later run showed that the buff is ineffective.) Shock and Awe slowed me most of time, naturally, since this is a big freakin’ angry undead shadow dragon.

One thing I learned quickly to do once the dragon started knocking me down (Stand Against the Tide’s secondary ability that prevents knockdown, Steadfast, doesn’t work against all knockdown types) was first to move to Unbreakable stance for PRR and then do something Monks don’t think of doing often: Block.

lynn-dw2.jpg

Even without a shield, a simple block seemed to prohibit knockdown (although the wiki does not note this), wards off some attack types and, thus reduce the damage I received. Once I had my HP restored, I turtled up for a bit, struck to gain back some ki, and blocked again.

Once or twice, the dragon’s successive attacks knocked me down and left me with just one-quarter health. The feat Guardian Angel kicked on for emergency PRR but I hadn’t time to look at that, of course. A single quick Cocoon restored my HP bar, thanks to 220 healing amplification. The healing curse also pulled 4 or 8 HP per strike.

The secondary worry was losing aggro. This was an accomplished raid team that knew when to attack the dragon to lower her HP in order for her to spawn Shadows to kill for portals used to enter the shadow side for phylactery destruction. But too much damage by the group and I could lose the dragon’s attention. Thankfully my threat level was sufficient. Only once did I need to rein her back in.

The great thing was that I tanked it well, defended well against the damage, healed myself most of the time, and could move her around enough to help complete the raid.

Now, the group decided just for Epic Hard that night, having suffered a brutal Epic Elite completion days before due to game issues.

Tanking was most triumphant.

A few days later we tried Elite “Fire on Thunder Peak.” I was tanking the “fat” dragon quite well. Things, however, went very pear-shaped after the two purple-named magma elementals were killed. Our teams were in poor alignment for more trash and the dragon’s attacks increased (as expected), leaving me more vulnerable. We abandoned our Epic Elite run and returned to curb-stomp things on Hard.

But, in my opinion, no more vulnerable than any other tank. I’ve seen heavily armored guys die easier than I did.  As a Shintao, my general defenses are good, and I have room for a bit more with some item farming and creative use of twists. Lesser Displacement. Another 30 PRR. Healing amp so strong I can heal 600 HP with Healing Ki.

Since then, Lynncletica has reached level 30, choosing Elusive TargetOverwhelming Critical and Dire Charge to complete the feats to 29. For the Legendary feat, I chose something new for me: Scion of Limbo. I’m used to one-minute buffs. The advantage here is that Limbo costs me nothing to use and works passively. I can time tactics as buff messages appear.

Filling in some epic destinies for 4 more fate points for twisting Sense Weakness. Not that Lynn has been hurting for damage. At around 50 STR and using the incredible burst damage of the Storm’s Harness handwraps, Lynn has begun to solo Epic Elites to work on her 5,000 favor. Her stunning work is also very strong there: As high as 80 DC for Dire Charge and a 68-70 DC for Stunning Fist. More than sufficient to stun Champion orange-names most times.

For those DCs, I wear level 30 Severlin’s Leaden Boots, a Legendary Animated Rope for +14 Combat Mastery (Enhancement bonus), some Insightful Combat Mastery +6 gloves, and Legendary Tactics from Legendary Dreadnought as a twist. I wear some Wisdom +14 goggles but haven’t any Insightful WIS items equipped just yet. The Storm’s Harness wraps add a +4 Quality Stunning bonus, too. My WIS is rarely above 40. Dire Charge uses your highest ability score, which is either STR or CON, both often in the 50s.

If I’m going to continue tanking shadow dragons, however, I need the negative energy absorbing powers of the Belt of Thoughtful Remembrance. I should have one, but farming for it shouldn’t be too hard.

Update 33 Testing

The DDO forums are abuzz with player comments and a few replies from the devs on the expected changes.

Given the magnitude of changes, and with a little encouragement from Cordovan, I’ve decided to join in the testing of U33 once it’s live on Lammania.

It’s amazing to me how some much criticism has been generated. I find it amazing because historically, the many functions of the Monk, certainly the most complex of the melee class, don’t seem to be used by many players I’ve seen in my circle. Everyone has a right to comment and aid in the development. I wish I knew more players that seem to actually use the enhancements and feats, attack and defense benefits at the level I’ve tried. Trying and using everything in the class is what my guide and gaming practice is all about.

Not that I’m omniscient to know the hearts and techniques of all players, of course. I’m always concerned how some players miss out on the tactical elements of the class, and think that more attack power or defense is simply the way to go.

But again, I’m oversimplifying other’s motives. I guess I don’t see any serious deficiencies in the class (save the Mystic’s defense and attack speed) that can’t be compensated by strategy.

Since the Book of Syncletica is going to need some significant changes on the update’s release, getting ahead on how the changes work will help update the guide that much sooner.

Can’t wait to begin.

Monastic Tanking

portrait-lynncletica1

I’ve been enjoying opportunities to run many raids, some I’ve rarely or never run before, such as “The Mark of Death” and “The Master Artificer.” I think, now, that the only raid I have never participated (primarily because of my disdain of the quest series needed to gather sigil, shield and frame ingredients) is “Accursed Ascension.”

But “Mark of Death” isn’t my favorite raid, anyway, so I’m sure “Ascension” won’t be a loss. I’ll still try to flag for it when an opportunity arises.

Ninety nine percent of my raids are as a DPS character, be it with the fortification-bypassing steady-hitting archery of Pynthetica, the crowd-controlling mass-destruction from the bow of Paracleta, or the poisonous shortsword damage of Ryncletica.

But one matter is common in many raids. The need for a tank, a character that can keep a central boss target busy while the rest of the party can remove trash and complete other related objectives necessary to eventually slay said bosses. Surprisingly, I’ve watched many a non-Fighter or non-Paladin accomplish this role in the Thunderholme raids.

I’ve mentioned, long ago, my work to align Lynncletica to become a tank. Nearing level 20, I’m closer to beginning my work to help out in epic raids.

But I know the character’s behavior in gameplay is just as important as the build to ensure that enemies pay attention to you and not the rest of the party.

The general article on the Tank on the DDO Wiki was helpful.

According to the article, a tank has to have central characteristics to be successful:

  • Health
  • Healing amplification
  • Armor Class
  • Saves
  • Damage Reduction
  • Intimidation (active and passive)
  • Balance
  • Weapons and items that increase Threat
  • Enhancements and other boosts

Health

Lynn’s HP gain per level as a Monk is only 75% of other melee tanks, requiring me to take the Toughness feat a few times and take Constitution enhancements from enhancements or Epic Destinies anywhere I can. My goal is to get Lynn to at least 1,000 HP this time around. That may seem low for a tank but as a Monk, Lynn has some special damage reduction abilities that others haven’t, such as miss-chance effects.

Unyielding Sentinel will likely be the default epic destiny, aiding not only in HP but threat and protection.

Damage Absorption

With recent changes, Lynn’s epic PRR should reach 100 or above. I was able to get Pynthetica’s PRR between 60 to 80 PRR with gear as an archer, so a Monk designed to tank should be able to improve that number. Like the miss-chance effects on Pyn, I have a lot of studying ahead of me to stack all available sources.

Healing amplification

At level 19, with a Shamanic Fetish in place, all Improved Recovery enhancements trained and with only one core enhancement left in the Shintao tree, Lynn’s Healing Ki can restore as much as 200 HP every 10 seconds. At around 490 HP, that’s helpful. This will improve with buffs and an epic Shamanic Fetish later in epic play. Healing amp gear also will play important roles, even items to add to my cross-class Heal skill.

Lynn might see 250-300 HP bursts from Healing Ki, with healing shield vampiric HP of 6-8 HP per strike probable. Self-healing is Lynn’s strongest quality.

Armor Class

Lynn’s AC is aided by Combat Expertise and the Monk’s Grandmaster of Mountains stance to boost total AC by 30%. All I must do I maximize the numbers through items to get that bonus. Around 150 to 200 AC is a suitable goal, but this will require a lot of item juggling and augment gems to boost Deflection and Natural Armor bonuses. Lynn’s DEX is lower so items to boost it and WIS for more AC will be critical.

Monks can’t use shields. But I can gain Shield bonuses from one item: A Flawless White Dragonscale Robe. I have a Flawless White helm, too, to get the HP artifact bonus. This set may be helpful over Shadowscale outfits until I can equip the Outfit of the Celestial Guardian, still the best armor I think you can find for any Monk by level 28.

Saves

Lynn’s saves are better than many tanks but weaker in one area, and that’s Reflex. Thankfully, perhaps a +5 or +6 tome in combination with enhancements to get DEX and its Reflex save higher. Fortitude and Will saves will be superior, thanks to high STR and WIS.

Damage Reduction

I mentioned improving Lynn’s miss-chance numbers to help avoid damage. Monks gain DR 20/Epic at level 20. The epic Guardian’s Cloak from Wheloon is a popular item I use on all my epic characters, with additional DR help.

Intimidate

So I’ve practiced my protection skills against charging mobs using weaker-than-normal hirelings, clerics, typically. The central ability is Ki Shout, an Intimidate-like ability that uses a Shintao Monk’s Concentration skill as the Intimidate number.

Ki Shout works quite well and I’m able to keep my clerics from getting slaughtered despite the light spells they spam to tick off enemies.

But there’s also the passive Threat generation needed. Grandmaster of Mountains adds 200% additional Threat. I’m currently wearing the Fabricator’s Bracers with its sister gauntlets for 20% more. Epic destinies can help here later as I grow.

Balance

Lynn has a high Balance to get her back on her feet if knocked down. Items can help here as required. Again, Unyielding Sentinel could help here with Standing Against the Tide core destinies and supporting effects. To mitigate damage if knocked down is the Shintao enhancement Instinctive Defense to ward off up to 25% damage if helpless. Blocking while down is important, too.

Weapons

Handwraps are Lynncletica’s central weapon but she holds on to some Metalline aligned kamas to add slashing damage, as well as a Snowstar to lure enemies closer. I’m looking forward to using some of the recent new wraps such as Storm’s Harness.

Gameplay

Tanking only works when a party wants one around. Some parties will have players that just zerg ahead and gather aggro like there’s no tomorrow. By the time you’re able to aid in rescue, the player has either zapped most of what would have killed him or has died.

Or I’ll aggro a group and find out I’m over my head. Most of the time, Lynn holds to her Little Mountain title, enduring and outlasting many enemies. But champions and Legendary levels are game-changing. I’m totally pessimistic that even a fully-trained and equipped Lynncletica will survive a sword blow from Sor’jek atop the mountain summit in Legendary Tempest’s Spine, after I’ve watched so many others that have died to that attack.

But maybe others have missed something. Maybe I’ll find that something.

The Ascetic Guardian

My posts have been filled with pleasant diversion from the blog’s focus.

Shuricannons.

Shortsword wielding ninjas.

Even Bard Swashbucklers.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fisticuffs?

Well, rejoice, Dear Heart, as now we return to those thrilling days of not-so-yesteryear of the thrice-new adventures of Lynncletica, the Little Mountain.

More sword than shield, Lynn's defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

More shield than sword, Lynn’s defenses will increase. But her attire befits that of a hermit until she is truly worthy to be a guardian.

With a third life, Lynn is not so little. Her larger physique granted by the third reincarnation makes her appear Amazonian, compared to others about the dojo.

Lynncletica returns as a Shintao Monk once more, leaving the role of the dojo’s Epic leader to Szyncletica for now. This time, Lynn is able to take full advantage of the Shintao training, which favors the Earth Stance for defense and power.

Of course, Lynn can never keep up with the Joneses in Boston, Mass., where their role as DDO’s developers continually tweak or change the curve of reality. Now comes Update 23, which will add a new mechanic for more melee and ranged damage: melee power.

The idea has many critics. Sir Geoff of Hanna has fired an early salvo of scorn about it. And I must admit to being darned confused about the notion.

I have read, in as much as time allowed, the expected updates to improve player defenses, especially against Epic characters. It would be nice not to get one-shotted by a minion. Four or five, maybe, if you’re not prepared. But the guys in heavy armor wear heavy armor and shields for a reason. It should take quite a lot of punishment for their characters to die.

What they need is something that scales with Epic damage bypassing, so the devs “Armor Up” threads had discussed adjustments with PRR and introduction of yet another mitigation ability, Magic Resistance Rating.

I find that welcome…but don’t we already have Spell Resistance for countering effects of certain spells? I believe I read that MRR aids against offensive spells, which makes a little sense with a sword-and-board against a powerful mage. But here, we come perilously close to that balance of mage versus melee where, all things being equal, mages lose. That’s why magic is what it is.

Peak Performance, Part Deux

Lynn’s return to Heroic continues my goal to get more of my characters to early levels to assist others. I’d also like Lynn, now gaining experience much slower, to help with Evennote’s great initiative, Players Helping Players, by helping her eventual avatar appearance on my server.

For now, I’m working to get Lynn to level 5. She appears for now  in some Ragged Rags as a mark of monastic asceticism, helping me to remember and appreciate the foundation of the unarmed Monk. Unless required or invited into party, Lynn enters on Elite without hireling support to help me train in defense and attack.

I’m particularly keen on preparing her for using Ki Shout. It’s an Intimidate effect that uses the Concentration score rather than Intimidate, a cross-class skill for Monks. I want to draw attention. I want the enemies to see only me, to fight me.

That sounds a little suicidal for a Monk, but here me out.

Log Horizon Revisited: The Guardian Motif

This fearless (or foolhardy) desire to serve more in the tanking role is certainly spinning off from my Log Horizon appreciation. This anime, where a D&D-styled game has become an alternate reality where the players live in that world as people based on their characters, has clear roles of battle tactics that serve the protagonists very well.

The first three main characters you see are an Enchanter (a Wizard-like character whose role is to augment his party member’s attack and defense) a Guardian (a heavy-armored fighter who intentionally tanks, that is, attracts all enemies to him to bear the brunt of the fighting while others in the party coordinate attacks) and an Assassin (which does as the name says) with ninja-like stealth skills.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

Guardian: Taunter and Tanker Extraordinaire.

I don’t quite have an Enchanter character, but Flynncletica the Bard comes a little closer to it. Kiricletica (despite the homage of her name to a Sword Art Online protagonist) is more like an Assassin with her Ninja Spy skills, so there’s a spot for a Guardian, and Lynn can fill that.

The second episode of the first series (a second series arrives this Fall) shows our Enchanter, Shiroe, and Guardian, Naotsugu, about to be ambushed by a player-killer group of at least 4 people. just nearby a large woods in a small glade at night. The enemy party consists of at least two Rogue-like people, a Fighter and a healer class.

What these four poor bastards don’t realize is that Shiroe and Naotsugu are perfect at their roles, trusting in each other’s abilities implicitly from their days as part of their game’s Ultimate Static Group, a non-guild renowned for their prowess in completing raids that even high-level guilds struggled to do.

I’d invite you to watch the episode, for free, online at Crunchyroll. The action scene is barely 10 minutes, about 5 minutes into the episode. But let me summarize how two players began to completely mop the floor with these four players in an excellent demonstration of teamwork. This show illustrates great RPG strategies we’re forgetting on DDO.

  1. Shiroe, the Enchanter, is seen casting a passive spell (but not announcing what he’s doing) as Naotsugu leaps in to gather aggro on the three attackers, their healer apparently staying behind the fray for support.
  2. As his maul-wielding fighter beats on Naotsugu,the enemy leader orders a nimble roguish attacker, using two chakrams, to attack Shiroe. Just as she leaps at him, Shiroe slows her down with Astral Bind, a rooting spell.
  3. Realizing a new problem, the enemy leader tells the chakram-wielder to switch places so he can attack Shiroe.
  4. Naotsugu notices the aggro change (and Shiroe trusts that he does) and performs “Anchor Howl”, a super-intimidate AoE effect that compels all in range to attack him alone. If anyone tries to ignore Naotsugu, he can make a nasty counterattack.
  5. With all three attackers now on Naotsugu, Shiroe realizes that the Guardian can only take that much attention for so long before his HP is gone. First, he casts what seems to the enemies as a worthless spell that throws floating lights around the enemy’s heads.
  6. Shiroe next targets the enemy fighter and casts “Thorn Bind Hostage”, a rooting spell that creates nasty magic thorns around a target that also roots them in place.
  7. Naotsugu strikes the thorns around the maul-wielder, causing him to lose half of his HP immediately. Surprised, the enemy leader calls out for the healer to restore health to their stricken member. Several thorns remain on the maul-wielder and the implications to all are deadly clear.
  8. Naotsugu strikes again at the punishing thorns. The enemy fighter dies and disappears (in this new reality, they are immortal and resurrect back in town), shocking the remaining enemies. The enemy leader shouts at their healer, who sways and promptly drops to his knees. Shiroe’s very first action at the start of the battle was to cast a sleeping spell on the healer, knocking him out of the fight, literally.
  9. The chakram-wielder becomes frustrated and attempts to attack Shiroe, but Naotsugu slaps her to near-death as she is still under the Anchor Howl intimidate effect. She soon runs away from the battle.
  10. The enemy leader, alone on the battlefield, calls out for his party backup, a Summoner and Sorcerer hiding in the woods. But Shiroe already knew about them.
  11. Shiroe’s count of “four enemies” was based on the fact that Naotsugu was momentarily stopped by a rooting spell not cast by any of the four attackers on the field. This was code to Akatsuki, the Assassin, who was in the woods as well and interpreted Shiroe’s message that more of the enemy were in wait elsewhere. Shiroe’s floating lights kept the enemies from seeing into the dark woods, where Akatsuki proceeded to assassinate the two mages without interference.
  12. Akatsuki drags out the dying two mages, who disappear. The enemy leader is totally alone and soon dies as well in a fitful and pitiful attempt to stab Shiroe, which Akatsuki does not allow.

It’s Naotsugu that played the dominant role in the battle. His role wasn’t as damage dealer but his aggro generation allowed all other party members to use their talents to the fullest without being under attack. No one paid attention to Shiroe’s strategic machinations until it was much too late. Akatsuki wasn’t known to the enemy party. She notes to the enemy leader, “your teamwork is full of holes.”

And note that the team of three had no healer of their own in party and were outnumbered 2 to 1. This continues into episode four, and even then, the team, now with two additions, has a only very weak healer as they ultimately must fight in another player-killer scenario, five against at least twenty five.

The central fight is a Swashbuckler against an evil Monk, cleverly taunted into a one-on-one battle. When the enemy Monk tries to dogpile on his sole combatant using the rest of his guild, guess who steps in and forces that mob to concentrate on him? Yep. That’s Naotsugu. In addition to Anchor Howl, he uses a special ability comparable to the Unyielding Sentinel’s epic moment to become effectively impervious for a time to buy Shiroe and the swashbuckler the time they need against the Monk.

Our guys win again.

Strategy works. Tanking is still awesome because a skilled party can handle far more formidable forces in this mode, rather than arming themselves to the teeth and attacking individually and on sight, each member likely pulling more threat to them than they could handle. The AI isn’t incompatible with this traditional style; the player attitudes now are. Everybody wants to be the star, it seems.

In contrast to what I described from episode 2 of the show, by episode 13, a junior group of adventurers show exactly how NOT to fight, losing and retreating again and again because of poor aggro management and only a vague sense of each other’s roles until one of them, a Shrine Priest that’s fond of Shiroe, begins training them to work as a team, with her work emulating Shiroe’s encounter-control tactics. That group becomes a bundle of power and dominance after that.

Lynncletica, Guardian Monk

So, Lynn is getting adjustments to make her a better Guardian-type Monk stylized a little after Naotsugu as Akatsuki is currently inspiring bits of Kiricletica. Her hit points will be sizable, her attacks powerful, but her defenses more formidable.

It’s not quite too different from her second-life as Lynn could handle almost any enemy in tanking but struggled a bit with Epic Elite defenses. My hope is that I can improve her against some EE as well, particularly as Update 23’s changes come into play.

She can heal herself and remove damaging curses and effects. Most importantly, Lynn can keep the bulk of the fight on her with her Ki Shout. From there, others in the party can debilitate enemies without fear of immediate counter-reprisal.

More and more STR will be Lynn’s regimen to eliminate targets, with close attention to WIS and CON.

I hope I can find a little more PRR than the 67 or so I managed by Epic, but it’s the miss-chance powers that I’d like more. Lynn never trained any Ninja Spy techniques and may consider it for Shadow Veil for 25% incorporeality. She didn’t have the strongest Dodge in the past, either, with maybe 18%. That’s got to change, too. She can Blur herself adequately.

One thing that the new Shintao tree has firmly discouraged me from doing is to train all the Elemental Curatives. Since Rise of the Phoenix only resurrects yourself and is no longer a Raise Dead SLA, I’ll only train the remove-curse and lesser-restoration abilities, which are great mass-effects in party, and shove the freed AP into Ninja Spy or improving more defense abilities. I’ll be immune to natural poisons and disease and can carry potions for magical types.

Combat Expertise will be retrained; it’s 10% stacking bonus to all AC goes fine with Earth Stance’s 20%. Lynn could get 100 AC without effort by level 20.

And, if team strategy is handled well, any party that Lynncletica serves won’t require extensive healing.

Lynn might train up additional abilities from the Ninja Spy and Mystic trees. The Henshin side has Mystic Training for improved finisher DCs, and an Animal Form style. Way of the Patient Tortoise has no negatives with more Concentration and HP, but Way of the Tenacious Badger seems nice in that my unarmed damage increases as my HP decreases, at the price of less Fortitude (compensated by higher CON). Adding more Dodge from the ninja’s Acrobatic ability is an easy choice to add points toward Shadow Veil. Perhaps, then, Faster Sneaking and Stealthy to add a bit more Hide/Move Silently and gain a point of passive ki regeneration.

I’m skipping Exemplar as before. The few points to unused cross-class skills Heal and Intimidate and the extra Threat generation I can gain through Devotion spell power and higher Concentration.

Deft Strikes and its increased off-hand attack rate is inviting, but Reed in the Wind’s extra Dodge is also helpful.

I’m curious how PRR will be effective for Monks with Update 23’s goal to cap PPR for unarmored folks. That said, I”m still a fan of it. So the Iron Skin ability gets maxed for 15 untyped PRR, as well as Conditioning for more Concentration and 15 more HP.

The jade attacks are always handy and will be trained, of course. If tier 4’s Instinctive Defense can be trained to reduce damage should Lynn become helpless (before I can use my Harper Pin if low on HP), then I’ll add it. I’m more keen on adding another CON point at this level.

Tier 5 of Shintao is filled with goodies. Meditation of War helps PRR but reduces Dodge cap in Earth Stance (at least until the last core enhancement offsets this). Empty Hand Mastery raises the unarmed attack hit die. I like Kukan-Do’s remote stunning but feel my CHA will never be high enough, and prefer to bring the fights closer to Stunning Fist range.

By Epic levels, Lynncletica will take more training as the Unyielding Sentinel, an epic destiny designed to tank and endure. She’ll lack only the ability to wear a shield for more defense but will gain more CON and PRR, and can amplify her Shield AC bonus from a Flawless White Dragonscale Robe once she creates one. There’s also the newer destinies that may offer more.

I’m looking forward to being more like a mountain, sturdy and invincible. Here’s hoping there’s more I can adapt in Update 23.

 

 

Update 20: The Half-Elf Inflatable Tank

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there's a difference between a light tank and a tank that's way too light.

Half-elves lose a key ability to being a durable light tank. But there’s a difference between a light tank and a tank that’s way too light.

Update: A poster noted that I was caught by Turbine Doublespeak Syndrome. The issue here would involve a Half-Elf (who gets the racial abilities of Improved Recovery, no matter the class) who takes Monk levels and then chooses Half-Elf Dilettante  Monk and then attempts to use the Dilettante Special Ability selection to gain the identically-named Improved Recovery options from there. To avoid people gaining triple amping using the Shintao line, the devs restrict the Shintao line (since all the cores add 5%) if you try to get around this trick. This makes sense.

So ignore this rambling in the post, which I will leave as a testament to anyone who later tells me that I post and don’t admit to being wrong. I was wrong.

A quick note as we all peruse through the changes of Update 20.

I noticed new language in some enhancement trees, designed to keep players from wasting action points by choosing abilities that are redundant to or conflict with something else from their class feats or other enhancement tree. The developers call these “Antirequisites.”

One caught my eye right away: The first Shintao Monk ability, “Bastion of Purity,” has a disheartening new antirequisite: By taking it, you cannot choose Half-Elf Improved Recovery I or II abilities.

I took several sips of coffee this morning to figure out why the change was made.

Note that Update 19 reduced racial healing amplification options to only Humans and Half-Elves, and left what was the old “Monk Improved Recovery” boosts split up into the Shintao core enhancements. Taking all Shintao cores will give you 30% amplification. If you aren’t either of these races, racial healing amplification is closed to you.

Frankly, this means that only a Human and their three tiers of Improved Recovery get the maximum healing amplification as a Shintao Monk. Half-Elves cannot use their options, even if they favor their human side, if I read this change correctly and didn’t miss other adjustments.

The only reason I could fathom to this change is that Half-Elf dilettantes, particularly the Cleric one, allows self-healing through wands and scrolls. Maybe the combined use of racial improved recovery and the dilettante seemed overpowered to the developers when used by Shintao characters.

As it is, my two Half-Elves are all Ninja Spies anyway. Both have maxed their racial Improved Recovery but also can use wands and scrolls for healing and buffing. They all rely on stealth and miss chance effects to reduce damage and do not lead a party except to scout.

Lynncletica is fated to be only a Human since she requires the maximum available healing amp that can only come from being a human Shintao Monk. Same is true for Syncletica, although I have some thoughts on her fate for a third life.

If you have a Half-Elf Shintao Monk, you’ll likely see a message indicating that your enhancements have been partially or fully reset. Sorry.

What annoys me is that the Shintao enhancement tree favors Mountain Stance too strongly. I love that the tree works as a tanking stance. But there are different ways to assist in light tanking and maximum defense isn’t necessarily the only way. We Monks survive by using ki and not plate and gear to regenerate ourselves.

My newest Monk, a Drow, has no healing amplification (save equipping her Jidz-Tet’ka bracers and using Fire Stance). But she’s a slippery devil with lots of miss-chance that is increasingly hard to hit, anyway.

If you’ve seen any other nerfing of enhancements, especially if they’re Monk related and/or have affected your characters, drop me a line.

Update: If you’re the kind of reader that reads only the end of a post, go back to the start. This only affects a specific min-max attempt by taking a dilly of the same class you that you are.

Update 17: Game Changer for a Tanking Monk

I don’t know about you, but Update 17 was a game-changing breath of fresh air.

First, we get Epic Gianthold. The wilderness area is a bit more, um, interesting, when you occasionally get a dragon that pounces on you and your party like a cat on a mouse. The quest refreshes are welcome, but what I loved, just LOVED was the quest chain reward for completing the flagging quests for the new “The Fall of Truth” raid. You didn’t have to step in the raid door at all to gain some Extremely Nice Phat Loot from the end-chain rewards. Run that one again and again and again, folks.

One of our guild’s trips to “Return to Madstone Crater” did run into a little glitch after slaying a named giant there. Our reward chest decided to be too high for our level–literally.

It was suspended above a shrine about 30 feet in the air.

Look! In the air! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It's our BLEEPING loot chest!

Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s our BLEEPING loot chest!

Thankfully, the gamemaster corrected this for us in less than 5 minutes after reporting it. Way to go, Turbine! It made for some laughs, that’s for sure.

Next, the devs refresh much of the gear from Level 1 to 20 throughout, oh, about every damn quest. Very few raid loot changes except “Tempest’s Spine” (which I think needed a little love).

Of course, aside from mostly positive updates to the gear’s stats, one addition: Augment slots, just made my day. (In fact, it’s making me a sandwich and getting me a beer right now, and teases that I’ll get a “dinner and a movie” later.)

For those not in the know, augment slots are similar to the (phased out) epic augment slotting system and the (legacy) Guild augment crystal idea. The biggest difference comes not just from finding slots on lots and lots of named and unnamed loot from level 1 and up, including Epic gear, but what you can add to it.

At first I was “meh” about it because I knew that my tanker Monk’s White Dragonscale Robe is nice enough as it is, and I won’t wear a lesser robe just to get a Blue Augment slot for more Physical Resistance. Then I looked at what it means to have a specific slot color.

It’s the primary colors game when adding gems to slots. A Colorless augment gem can go in any slot since it’s without color. A Blue gem can only go in a blue slot. But a Blue gem or Yellow gem works with a Green slot since Yellow and Blue make Green.

Further, there is an Epic White Dragonscale Robe–with a Blue slot and more AC.

And then I had a nerdgasm over what that meant for my tanker Monk, Lynncletica.

At first I thought that I’d have to Twist and Shout like crazy for Epic Destiny abilities to raise PRR and HP since I wouldn’t likely find Blue slots needed for PRR. But Green slots are found in many places. You can run the “Delera’s Tomb” chain, get an updated Hellfire Cloak with a built-in gem in it’s Green slot, pry it out with a Jeweler’s Kit from the DDO Store (which lets you keep that pried gem) and pop in your Blue gem.

Ta-da! I just got +10 to PRR, and still have an empty Yellow slot for perhaps a Deathblock gem.

Mind you, the Hellfire Cloak was maybe a ML5 item, but adding the +10 PRR gem (bought for 150 TP on the Store) raised it’s ML to about 16. I am still happy. More so than grinding for that Iron Cloak of the Bear that had only 3 PRR (although the Exceptional Combat Mastery is very good for stuns and the like).

My euphoria continued through this weekend by several Crystal Cove runs with guildmates to generate all I needed to build a Greater Bold Trinket and upgrade my Ring of the Buccaneer to its maximum (creating a Green slot) that will get a PRR +14 gem once I hit Level 20.

Further: All that gnashing of teeth and lamentations of my women in keeping essential protections like Deathblock and Heavy Fortification while trying to keep my set items equipped can be solved with any loot with a Green slot to put the needed gem in place.

My eye now looks to the epic Treads of Falling Shadow, which has Ghostly for Lynncletica, or the improved Ring of Shadows, and so much more. I’m purposefully gearing her for Epic Elite power now so that she’ll be more than ready for it later. A PRR of 90 to 100 is now so possible it brings tears to my mind’s eye.

All I need to do once I confirm all the new slotted gear is working as intended is to review whether to respec to add Dodge, Mobility and Spring Attack to add better “stick and move” attacking required for melee in Epic Elite as well as dodge bonuses to get Lynn to at least 12%-15% consistent Dodge.

I’ll still train her in Legendary Dreadnaught for a super-HP path but I believe now that Twisting what I can from that into Grandmaster of Flowers (keeping the 15 PRR and Dodge bonuses there, not to mention Everything is Nothing) will lead Lynncletica to a new level of enlightenment.

There’s still the matter of a better Reflex save to make this work best. I need 45 or more.

And finding a slotted returning shuriken would make my day complete–again.

UPDATE (3/8/13): It’s the fine print that always gets me.

While PRR normally stacks, augment gems are marked as an enhancement bonus. That means only one gem works at a time and lesser ones are ignored.

I was sad at this just as Lynncletica reached Level 20 last night and put her epic gear on to see her new numbers. I wasn’t too sad about the PRR for long. While only the +12 PPR appeared, I showed a 42 PRR, 87 AC and a +38 Reflex with all Grandmaster of Flowers effects and Way of Sun Soul gear active. I’ve started on Legendary Dreadnought to get that extra 15 PRR as a twist but realize that more Reflex should greatly help with tanking as well. Surprisingly I don’t own a pair of Grave Wrappings or Drow Smoke Goggles…

Sadly, the Heavy Fortification or Deathblock gems out there are going for maliciously high prices on the Auction House, so here’s hoping one can buy them on the Store.

Going to have to  grind more than an army of Starbucks baristas by a coffee mill.

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