Standing with Stones

fukiya

Ninja PLEASE!

I’m still alive and well (albeit still unemployed) as I make a quick note of recent events and updates. I’ve been distracted by an old friend, a game I loved before DDO. More on that another time.

First off, congratulations to Standing Stone Games. I, for one, welcome our new game overlords.

You can read more about the reincorporation online, but basically, it seems our developers and producers have spun themselves off from their WB Games-owned Turbine entity and have a much freer space to develop and profit. Looks like some old hands lost over the years might also be returning.

I wanted primarily to write on Update 33 Patch 2, arriving tomorrow (Wednesday 12/21). Many course corrections and major changes to polish off the major Monk enhancements and handwrap/weapon update of Update 33.

Here are the general Monk adjustments. Items that are great (and there are several) are in italics.

  • Monk finishing moves now incorporate Stunning bonuses into their DC calculations.
  • Ki Shout has had its cooldown reduced to match Intimidate, and its Ki cost lowered slightly. (Lynncletica is very happy.)
  • Meditation of War is no longer considered a Defensive stance.
  • Flash Bang should now add Stunning DCs.
  • Ki Bolt now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Incinerating Wave now scales with 3x Melee Power, and adds Stunning DCs.
  • Cauldron of Flame’s damage has changed to 1d2 Fire Damage per Monk level, scaling with 2x Melee Power, at each tier, to a maximum of 10d2 per Monk level before scaling. In addition, while wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +20 PRR, +10 MRR, and +15% Dodge that ignores Dodge Cap.
  • Serenity grants an additional boost to Cauldron of Flame: While wielding a quarterstaff inside your Cauldron of Flame, you gain +5 to hit and damage, and a +1 Critical Multiplier.
  • Serenity now grants a +15% attack speed with quarterstaves. (About time.)
  • Henshin Mystic has a new Tier 5 ability called Henshin Staff Training: +3 to hit and damage with quarterstaves.
  • Lighting the Candle now deals about twice as much damage as before.
  • Void Strike now adds +1 to Critical Threat Range and Multiplier with its attack.
  • Shintao’s Touch the Void Dragon now also passively grants +1[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Shintao’s To Seek Perfection now also passively grants +2[w] with handwraps or while unarmed.
  • Ninja Spy’s Diversion now also grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice for 20 seconds when activated.
  • Ninja Spy’s Ninja Master now also passively grants +5 Sneak Attack Dice.

Ninjas come awfully close to Rogue-level sneak attack powers with things like this, and I’m not complaining. My new SA-happy Shadowbow Ninja archer will deal more damage.

  • Diversion and Touch the Void Dragon no longer share a cooldown.
  • Hit boxes for monks with handwraps have been restored to their previous size.

A very annoying bug squash here that should now allow handwrap-wielding Monks to massage Lolth’s incredible abs with our fists once more in “Caught in the Web” without falling to our doom.

  • Every Light Casts a Shadow should no longer give negative levels to friendly members of your party.
  • Spring Attack is now a Monk Feat at level 6.

The Combat adjustments are a bit interesting for ranged characters. Not sure how this will work with my snipers, especially the Diversion-loving Pynthetica:

  • We’ve corrected a long-standing bug where groups of enemies would not aggro correctly. Players will find that they can no longer use a ranged attack to pull singular enemies from a group without aggroing nearby enemies.

Now, I’m fine with this change as it is more realistic. But, hopefully, the other aggroed enemies don’t immediately come after you, but first note the noise, look, and investigate, buying you time.

  • Bluff and Deception will no longer cause bosses and enemies using ranged attacks or spells to turn around. This corrects an issue where ranged enemies would stop attacking after being bluffed or affected by Deception, and improves the enemy combat experience. Red-named bosses are still affected by sneak attack damage vulnerability.

Another change that’s fine, as long as the Bluff effect still procs and damage is still happening, and hopefully, enemies are still slowed or hesitant in some way. However, this might change the nature of my Zen Archer powers. I’ll have to test and see.

  • Raid and named bosses can no longer be champions.

Nothing’s more scary than to see Lolth wearing a crown. She’s already crazy as it is.

Other good stuff:

  • Many old loot effects that were made specifically for old-style handwraps now work properly on updated handwraps.
  • Vampirism and Lesser Vampirism now provide their proper effects on handwraps.
  • Heroic and Legendary Greensteel handwraps are now available!

How about that? I’ve been craving some Triple-Positive disruptors for Deathwyrm.

  • Scaling Melee and Ranged Alacrity 10% is now applying its proper bonus.

Last but not least is the ability to immediately transfer your characters to and from other servers. This costs a bit but might help in the server balance right away. I might use it to move a few beloved characters I made on Cannith (of which time prohibits me to occupy often enough now).

More to come for my last post of the year next week, if not sooner.

 

Thank You, Developers

trophyUpdate 33 Hotfix 1 is arriving as I type this.

The release notes are short, as hotfixes tend to be quick bullet points.

There’s been some important fixes, such as purple and red-named bosses not becoming Champions.

A guildmate had to play the Spinner of Shadows in Epic with a crown on her head–as if she needed any more overpowered abilities!

But less can be more when it comes to patches.

The best news:

  • Handwraps no longer take durability damage.

Obviously I haven’t tested this just yet. But it’s good news. Not because we Monks want special treatment, but because the change of handwraps to non-weapons (with all the downsides that weapons can have against oozes and rust monsters) made the class potentially more expensive to use in early levels. It was also a sudden change that most of us were hardly ready to compensate for, through crafting or other means.

I would’ve also been happy to have Everbright wraps given to new Monks in Korthos as well as Heroic and Epic named Everbright wraps we could find, rather than mucking with sensitive code. But the devs decided to find a global change, and it’s no less appreciated.

It also means that parties once more have a member that can handle oozes without splitting them (in general), damaging their weapons or wasting spell points. Every class has at least one benefit to a party, and Monks benefitted from ooze-bashing, too, especially in lower levels where ki generation is harder.

Now new Monks won’t be as broke as they might have been. Thanks for the quick fix, devs.

Another fix was something I had noticed in gameplay sometimes:

  • Monk Damage Reduction on handwraps will no longer disappear after zoning or resting.

I would notice that, when wearing my Storm’s Harness handwraps, the electric damage wouldn’t be activating. After swapping to another pair of wraps and back, the damage would reappear. Now, I don’t recall resting (I rarely use shrines except for resetting spell points, clickies, or death penalties) when this problem happened.

In related news, I have heard rumors that the Tower of Despair “Incredible Potential” rings might be problematic with the handwrap change. I’ve not yet tested this and will report when I can, but if anyone has a Holy Bursted ring and can verify if the ring still works with the new handwrap format, just shout out.

 

 

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.

 

 

Acquiescence for the Pugilists

oldglovesI’ve joked with friends, as I drink four Yugoloth Favor Potions with my Shintao Monk every fifteen minutes, that I fight simply to support my expensive drinking habit.

That’s not far from the truth. Getting sufficient favor to gain Yugoloth favor requires you to run most of the Shavarath-Devil quests on Elite. Time is expensive in an MMO. Each Yugoloth potion itself is about 1,100 platinum. I buy four types–STR, DEX, CON, WIS–often 50 each. That’s roughly 100,000 platinum.

I can go through them rapidly. They’re a beneficial expenditure when farming on Legendary Hard quests when CR 40 and higher enemies spawn.

Being a Monk isn’t an inexpensive venture. First, you have to buy the class. It cannot be earned by favor. When I learned of DDO, without playing one second in the game, I bought the class, becoming a Premium player.You also can gain the class as a VIP.

As a Monk, you’re always limited at the start in what items you can use. No armor except cloth. No weapons save 3 types unless your enhancements and feat allow exception. Heavier damage incurred without a lot of practice in the style of fighting. Lesser damage and hit points than any other melee. Lesser protections at the start until you build up Improved Evasion, miss-chance and saves. And you have to leverage this peculiar energy known as ki, and timing specific elemental attacks to buff or damage, all in a proper sequence, or you fail the technique, be you level 1 or 30.

By level 9 you’re more able. By level 12 most Monks come into their own and do very well at Elite ventures if they remember their strengths. That is, a good Monk doesn’t leap into the fray if they can help it or unless they do so by strategy (a tanking Monk does, if need be).

The early DDO quests are stacked against the Monk because much of it existed before the class did. So, most early quests don’t give item rewards useful at all to the Monk. A few quests were adjusted to help there, but they are far and few, or require you to purchase a module (Catacombs and Sentinels of Stormreach come immediately to mind).

The one singular benefit of being a Monk, if you persevered in your training, is its self-sufficiency. You could heal yourself or use techniques that minimized or avoided fighting altogether that few other classes could match. Your special attacks were designed to thwart the most dangerous enemies early on in an adventurer’s life–the undead.

Changes are natural in an MMO. Most are to the benefit of the player, even if it takes a while for us to appreciate them.

The latest update for the Monk class, specifically its enhancement trees, is most useful for the Ninja Spy but leave the Henshin Mystic in a questionably useful state.

One change, however, has compelled me to avoid the use of any unarmed Monk, except in some raids, for the time being. That’s the change of handwraps as extensions of the unarmed Monk into a weapon.

While the quality of the change seems to improve the general damage of the Monk, the change will also make gameplay for early Monks prohibitively expensive, and difficult for some Monks, even epic ones, to compensate. Here’s why.

  1. Early Monks will be often fighting oozes. Before Update 33, handwraps did not suffer greatly from attacking these jelly creatures while other melee fighters had to back off a little to let casters or ranged members in party to eliminate them. Killing oozes also gave the young Monk some opportunity to build up needed ki reserves that dissipate early in their play with lower WIS and Concentration scores. Handwraps now are weapons, and, per the developers, are working as intended, suffering damage from attacking oozes and rust monsters. This is very serious for two reasons. (1) Unarmed fighting is the de facto form of the Monk. Finding handwraps with the Everbright property is nearly impossible with the current loot-generation: The prefix appears completely extinct. That means a young Monk must spend a lot of platinum buying handwraps so they can get through a single quest filled with oozes. (Waterworks has quite a lot of these, for example). Finding inexpensive Everbright handwraps or quarterstaves will be unlikely, especially since now every Monk will need one and the trading economy will naturally make these more expensive. Else, the Monk must nerf their own damage by removing their wraps and fighting bare-handed. In effect, the change forces you to avoid using your one and only weapon as a Monk. (2) Gaining Everbright with the (welcome) update to Cannith Crafting requires you to have moderate skill (250) to make your own bound ones. If you are lucky to know a friend who can create unbound shards for your Everbright weapon,  at 400 skill, you can also gain the right handwraps.
  2. For new Monks, both conditions make fighting more difficult and expensive than it need be. And this issue affect high-end adventurers. Your named handwraps will also suffer damage, and that means you must craft very expensive handwraps not only to for them to survive but also deal sufficient damage. Rust monsters and oozes do appear in flagging quests for Epic and Legendary raids, and powerful, deadly rust monsters do appear in one Legendary raid. That leaves Epic players to fight with much weaker weaponry, or none at all to preserve their handwraps during a long raid, dealing less damage to the enemy and likely jeopardizing themselves and party.

So, for now, it’s hard for me to recommend anyone to choose the class unless you are going for some non-unarmed variant. Even then, bows and shuriken cannot break down some walls and doors to progress, so every Monk carries handwraps or kamas, at the least, to knock these down.

In reply to a thread I posted on this, developer Steelstar noted that the durability of handwraps were significantly boosted to help this working-as-intended design. However, in tests I’ve done, difficult oozes will destroy most of the durability even in a brief fight. And there’s always someone in party that has only slashing weapons that make more oozes as they break apart, leaving everybody with more to fight.

Steelstar also noted that they’ll be looking into the situation on when or if they can improve this matter.

I’m normally patient and don’t inherently blame the devs–they always have a difficult job in pleasing the player and encouraging them to play and, in turn, spend their money and time to do so.

But the Monk class is a different breed. If the Monk were a class that could be earned by favor, the challenge of it becoming more expensive and time-consuming to equip and fight oozes would be offset a little. But players already spend real money to get the class. To play now in certain quests will damage equipment so badly, with far fewer options than other classes with the same issues, that I can’t really recommend buying the class until Everbright handwraps for young Monks are provided at low cost and early on, and in Free-to-Play content, just so they can get through the early levels.

Intermediate Heroic and Epic level Monks also shouldn’t require Cannith Crafting levels to get at least one named pair of handwraps with Everbright properties just to get rid of the monsters. The items needn’t be particularly powerful at all–just durable. Finishing moves and technique can go a long way from there.

We Monks don’t want to spend our time right now improving our crafting levels just to play, much less avoiding spending lots of platinum in repair costs. Besides, how could a Monk improve his crafting levels if questing requires getting loot to break down, and to get to that, you might fight monsters that dramatically destroy your equipment?

For now, my unarmed Monks are retired to rest in the dojo, relieved of most work until my crafting level improves to make Everbright handwraps for them and others I encounter.

Update 33: The Promised Land

I did get Lammania up earlier in the week to explore the changes for the Monk class with Update 33. I played around with copies of my Zen Archer, Poison Master and Shintao. Things looked promising for the very brief time I was able to play there.

Now that the official release notes are up as the game is updating today, I realized I missed some little bits of information from my last post that should make most Monks in general rather happy. Listed from awesome to meh:

  • In all three trees, Elemental Ki strikes have been changed. Eagle Claw Attack now applies four stacks, and stacks to 15. Knock on the Sky reduces enemy physical damage by 4% per stack. Unbalancing Strike is now +3[w].

I use Unbalancing Strike (counted as a Water move) often with the Poison Master to quickly charge up Freezing the Lifeblood paralyzing move. Doesn’t look like Fists of Iron has changed from its +3[W] damage, +1 critical threat range, and +1 Critical Damage Multiplier.

  • The Fire finisher Breath of the Fire Dragon now scales with 2x Melee Power.

This change will certainly help in damage against Plant and ice-based enemies.

  • Each Ninjutsu ability in Ninja Spy now also grants +1 to hit and damage with weapons other than a quarterstaff or handwraps when centered.

A welcome change for my Poison Master and for the stealth-master Kiricletica. Kiri’s still around but my Zen craze has been keeping my attention. I’ll update you on her progress with these new changes and perhaps put Kiri through more solo stealth work with newer content.

  • Iron Skin now works regardless of your chosen stance.
  • Iron Skin’s third rank now grants +20 PRR when centered.

Last night I was playing with Lynncletica’s PRR just before another Deathwyrm. She generally sat around 139. Then I added in a Legendary Planar Compass, then Twisted in the Grandmaster of Flowers Standing with Stone for 15 additional and Primal Avatar’s Ephemeral Evolution for up to 15 more when attacked. As I completed that change, my Legendary feat Scion of Limbo moved to give me another 30 PRR. And then I added in the Antipode/Planar Conflux 15 PRR bonus.

I had around 177 PRR for a hot minute.The update to Iron Skin will make things more hot.

  • Grandmaster of Flowers now grants handwrap proficiency in its first Core Ability.

Might have mentioned this one, but it’s still great. Gives our non-Monks something to look forward to doing as they level up that destiny.

  • Fury Eternal and Unbridled Fury now explicitly say they work with ranged weapons.

The monkchers are vindicated.

When I used Unbridled Fury one time with Pynthetica in a “Defiler of the Just” run against the end-boss, my reaction to the immense DPS boost was not too different from Egon using his proton thrower for the first time in Ghostbusters: Complete amazement.

egon_gb1

  • Handwraps have gained +10 Hardness and +80 Maximum Durability.

Since handwraps are weapons now, does this mean that they also become damaged from oozes and rust monsters? Let’s hope not. Handwraps should have an inherent Everbright property. We shouldn’t lose, as parties or individual Monks, a way to remove oozes through a melee fighter. Monks can’t equip Muckbane clubs without becoming uncentered, and quarterstaves are nearly worthless in the hands of anyone but a Mystic.

UPDATE: In very early play in Update 33 live, I entered “Creeping Death,” where oozes abound. My wraps are suffering tremendous damage. I’ve reported this as a bug already. This is unacceptable as I haven’t any other “weapons” to use as a Shintao and there are absolutely no “Everbright” handwraps as that would’ve been unnecessary pre-Update 33.

SECOND UPDATE: Cordovan’s response in a thread I opened reporting this states this change is working as intended. New players are going to get screwed for repair costs as oozes are plentiful in early content. Everbright handwraps haven’t dropped for ages with various loot prefix/suffix changes. And you’ll need at least 250 bound/400 unbound skill to craft Everbright handwraps. I normally roll with the punches (no pun intended) with game changes that are challenging, but this one makes so little sense I will not be surprised that fewer Monks appear.

  • Stunning Fist now specifically requires Handwraps to use.

Is this “problem” still going on? If you aren’t a Monk, you should be using Stunning Blow or, better, Shield Bash. I’ve seen one friend shield-bash about as fast as I could use Stunning Fist, and it was most impressive.

  • Planar Shards, Outsider Tokens, and Draconic Runes now properly go into bags.

Totally not specific to Monks, but yay, more storage space freed up.

  • Demon Assault no longer respawns enemies after the end chest is opened.

That’s welcome. In that quest, the reavers and renders were almost impossible to manage while you’re trying to loot, assess and trade items from the chest.

  • Six new Deity options are available for Clerics, Paladins, and Favored Souls at their first level. These are analogous to the existing Deity feats and abilities.

Again, not Monk-related. But I’m fond of this change because of my long love of the D&D based Neverwinter Nights games. There, your clerics got a lot of extra bonuses with their deity alignments. Further, if you’re going to have clerics and other divine fighters in the game, leaving out these elements seemed to make gameplay rather odd in terms of roleplay, especially since many NPCs had deity alignments.

  • Festivult Abishai Cookies work as a set again.

That explains my abortive attempt to use the five cookies with Paracleta for a stacking +4 to WIS while running a Legendary Elite Tempest’s Spine. I’ll be running lots of stuff to get more of these cookies in the future.

  • Critical Multiplier bonuses now work on Thrown weapons.

That bug keeps being fixed and broken over several updates. My old Shuricannon relies on better modifiers for higher damage, so this is welcome. However, conversations on the forums suggest this isn’t the complete fix.

  • Monk’s Moment of Clarity finishing move feat tooltip now properly states that it is a stacking bonus, rather than an Insight bonus.

Hardly relevant since you’d have to be a Mystic (where the only Void attack exists to activate the finisher) to use it. I mentioned this last time because there’s no reason I know not to have a simple Void Strike feat added back into the game for non-Mystics to use this finisher and its dark version once more.

I will try to forget what I’ve known about the Mystic and give it another try soon. I’ve learned more on defense options and the game has evolved significantly over several updates to provide options I hadn’t had available when the first Mystics arrived.

 

 

Update 33 Beta: Seen It, Still Working on Believing

scales

Cordovan was banking on completing Update 33 on Legendary Elite, solo, armed with only a Club of the Holy Flame, when he posted on Twitch TV a preview of the update’s expected changes recently. Teacher Saekee showed another thread with a clearer view of Cordovan’s notes.

They’re all expected live (per Cordovan’s forum update on the matter, not the video) around Wednesday, October 12 on Lammania.

Since I dominantly play the Monk class, I’m sure a few folks want my take on it. I had some early reservations about expected changes. Now that there’s public, official but beta release notes, I can speak up.

The problem is that the changes are rather comprehensive and numerous, so I’ll concentrate on how they affect what builds I have and come back to finer points as they apply.

Changes to my Shintao Monks

Lynncletica and Syncletica will see their handwraps change into a type of Exotic weapon, with 1d6 as their starting damage.

I don’t know if a completely unarmed (that is, not wearing handwraps) Monk still sees damage through their hands in the current way.

Any DR bypassing provided by the enhancements for unarmed Monks will apply through the new handwraps.

It’s not clear to me why this change was made, save for increasing possible damage and to provide the option to make Green Steel handwraps. I find the latter answer a load of malarkey since several quest chains now create handwraps from ingredients, Thunder-Forged handwraps included. Why the Shroud’s building mechanic didn’t follow the same principle has always confused me.

Stances get a few changes. For starters, the +1 critical hit multiplier in the upper Mountain stances move to the Fire Stances. I guess this is logical as Fire Stance increases STR, which is the attack modifier, so greater damage will come from this change. The downside (and a balance I approve) is that higher damage is offset by a reduction in WIS if using Fire Stance. Lynn will still use Mountain Stance as a guardian for its protections but this does invite a new build that punches harder than any other.

Ocean Stance’s Dodge bonuses are enhanced to 3,6.9 and 12%. This change is weird. It’s ridiculously easy to add Dodge to a Monk. I would’ve rather seen increases to all saves in a similar scale.

Wind Stance received no changes to its bonuses to Doublestrike or attack speed or defenses. Syncletica remains a glass cannon.

“Form Ki” moves are mentioned. I presume we’re speaking of the elemental strikes. These attacks are scaled by Melee Power. I’m fond of this as it encourages people to use finishers and elemental attacks, if my presumption is right. Likewise, elemental strikes scale with melee power, and provides me with similar confusion.

And attack-based finishers deliver 1[w] damage. Not bad.

As well, Fists of Light itself delivers 0.5[w], 4d6 Light damage, and overall damage, including Vorpal-calculated strikes, scale with Melee Power. Nice news when bashing skeletons and others more effectively, especially since the Monk’s Bludgeoning damage is resisted by many enemies.

Vorpal Strike now works with handwraps. It wasn’t working before? Thankfully I haven’t bothered to use this feat lately, and there are Vorpal handwraps, anyway.

Some other cool changes: Shining Star, the Otto’s finisher of Earth/Wind/Fire (get it?) will use WIS and not CHA as its modifier. A new build idea just dawned in my head immediately, although this finisher is granted only at level 20. It would’ve been nice if the feat’s minimum level was lowered to 12 or 15. Similarly, the remote stun enhancement Kukan-do will also use WIS and not CHA for it’s DC.

Some great news for Lynn’s healing: Healing Ki now heals 1d4 per Monk level, instead of per 2 levels. 

Lastly, in the “WTF!? You’re Confusing Us!” category is “Moment of Clarity.” The description says that it’s “bonuses now stack (a former Insight bonus).”

What the devs may be forgetting (and have since the initial enhancement change) is there are two Moments of Clarity in-game. The release notes clearly mention the Harper Agent enhancement’s ability to increase tactical and spell DCs by +10 for ten seconds.

The original Moment of Clarity was a granted Monk feat, a finishing move (Light/Void/Light: Bonuses to attack rolls and skill checks to nearby allies). It’s been all but permanently broken ever since the Void Strike feat was removed with the first enhancement pass and placed in a remarkably useless tier 5 enhancement when the Henshin Mystic enhancements arrived years ago. Removing Void Strike also broke the Ninja Spy’s charming finisher, Curse of the Void.

Can we PLEASE get a Lesser Void Strike feat restored to reactivate the Moment of Clarity (and the dark Monk’s Curse of the Void) finishers without having to train a Mystic? Please? It doesn’t have to even cause more than 1 point of Force damage. Just restore that finisher with a simple optional feat, or rip it out of the granted feats. It’s tiresome to see something we cannot use–and, based on the notes, making Mystics will still not be worth it to me to get Void Strike or play them in general (more later).

More Shintao specific changes in their tree begin with +1 to-hit and attack for each trained Elemental Curative. Similarly to changes in the Ninja Spy’s tier 5 Ninjutsu, you no longer need to train all Elemental Curatives to get Rise of the Phoenix, the self-resurrection ability. Switching places with Phoenix is Empty Hand Mastery, which changes from a die damage of 1d6 to 1d8 to a +1 Competence bonus to critical hit modifier and threat range.

The defensive PRR boosting Iron Skin works for any stance. A small win for Wind Stancers like Syncletica and Ocean Stancers like the Zen archers and the Poison Master. Likewise, Violence Begets Violence also works for any stancean additional concession to make the Shintao tree give less favoritism to tanking.

The fourth Shintao core, Touch the Void Dragon, now becomes an untyped stacking bonus to all ability scores, and the final core enhancement, To Seek Perfection, goes from +2 to +4 WIS.

The changes to the Tainted strikes confuse me in terms of role play (the Shintao specialized in damaging any Outsider), but I can live with the adjustments. All abilities that affected Tainted creatures now affect all enemies, including the ability to encase any enemy in jade and debuff anything with Jade Strike, Tomb of Jade and Smite Tainted Creature. The change is like giving Rangers a Favored Enemy range to “everything,” but who am I to judge?

Lastly, Meditation of War’s effects will now become untyped and stack with similar effects.

Changes to the Poison Master, Zen Archer and Bowmaster

The Zen Archer build I put together (as well as her opposite, the Zen Bowmaster) are based in part on elements from the Ninja Spy tree. Of course, the melee Poison Master is wholly ninja.

My largest worry in the rumored enhancements were that the devs would make changes to the one tree that was generally versatile and perfect out of the gate in the first pass. The Zen Archer and the Poison Master are based on some items from teacher Firewall’s original Shuricannon. The Bowmaster has only a “splash” of Ninja Spy for use of its Shadow Veil incorporeality but is primarily a Elven Arcane Archer that really loves a recent enhancement pass update there.

Thankfully, what changes I read for the ninjas seem not only acceptable, but very welcome.

For Ryncletica the sword wielder, the Fists of Darkness’ effects now scale with Melee Power.

There were several incomplete notes about changes to basic finishing moves. Using Cordovan’s notes, I think I can guess what’s to be changed.

The Gathering Storm and Raging Sea finishers has had their WIS DC modifiers raised from 10 + WIS modifier to 15. These aren’t commonly used finishers, even by me.

Replacing the rather underwhelming Crippling Strike enhancement (which did the same  as the Rogue version) in tier 5 Ninja Spy is the new Deadly Striker. With any weapon other than handwraps or quarterstaves, you gain +1 to critical hit modifier range, with kamas and shuriken get double the bonus. Yay for both Shuricannons and Saekee’s hyper-crit-range Forester’s Brush Hook build. (Most of the Ninja Spy changes affect all weapons except the new handwraps and quarterstaves.)

The ninja also gets a tier 2 Action Boost to Melee and Ranged Power. Happiness for all the builds I use, especially the Zen Archer, which is all about Ranged Power.

It kept getting better to be ninja. The first and second core enhancements, Ninja Training and Advanced Ninja Training, now apply to ANY weapon (again, except handwraps and staves) you can use while Centered.

This is BIG for the Zen builds as this means that neither absolutely require the Elf for the Grace enhancement to deliver Dexterity-to-Damage for longbows (but still needs the racial tree for weapon proficiency), and also means you can get these bows working far earlier in the build’s life. I’d still likely recommend Elf for weapon proficiency, the extra training available there to longbow damage, Dragonmarks for Displacement, and Doubleshot. But this changes saves a few Action Points you can reapply in other trees.

And here’s an obscure bonus I see as a benefit of this change. There is a singular named weapon that’s not a kama, shuriken, handwrap, quarterstaff or bow that Monks can wield while staying Centered and without being a Kensei. It’s the Midnight Greetings kukri. Melee ninja such as Ryncletica can use them more effectively since DEX-to-Damage will be activated.

However, the Monk class’s Martial Weapon Proficiency includes only handaxes (something only the Kensei could use right now) by default, so a precious feat must be added for proficiency in this special kukri. While the Heroic weapon isn’t very special, the classic Epic version of the weapon can do some serious work in early Epic lives. Requiring the feat for proficiency may not be worth it, and goodness knows how hard it is to gather the seal, scroll and shard ingredients needed to make any classic Epic crafted item.

Ninja Poison now scales with Melee Power. I’ll really want to see how the Poison Master build will work with this change–it’s all about stacking Poison DoTs. The little-used Poisoned Darts gain more Poison per stack (1d8), but that’s still welcome.

Here’s more. The final core enhancement, Ninja Master, adds +2 DEX and +2 WIS, with +1 Competence bonuses critical hit changed from range to threat modifiers (except for handwraps or staves). I can imagine Saekee just fainted: His Brush Hook build may get a threat range of 10-20 now.

More happiness for the Poison Master, as Poison Exploit’s damage rises to 1d10+10 per Ninja Poison stack.

Also, the Touch of Death negative energy strike scales to 200% Melee Power, and no longer requires you to train the Ninjutsu components to get it. It’s still a tier 5 ability, but for those that don’t care for Ninjutsu, it’s a build option.

Very happy change to Shadow Double. While its stacking Doublestrike bonus was decreased from 100% to 50%, its duration is doubled to 12 seconds, gains 3[W] in damage and has a shorter 20 second cooldown.

And it keeps getting better. Matching the Rogue Assassin tree changes, Stealthy and Faster Sneaking are merged and require 3 AP to fully activate. Also, the melee threat reducing Subtlety will be moved from tier 2 to tier 1, while the Dodge cap, Concentration boosting Ability requires more commitment in Ninja Spy as it moves up to tier 2.

Last but not least, each tier of Ninjutsu is cheaper to activate, with just 1 AP, but also gives +1 to to-hit and damage with all Centered non-handwrap/quarterstaff weapon for each trained enhancement.

I was hoping the Ninja Spy wouldn’t be nerfed. A good thing will actually become better. Yay!

Changes to the Henshin Mystic: Disappointing

For every silver lining in the notes, however, there’s more ominous clouds looming in confusing and contradictory changes for the Henshin Mystic.

The biggest changes to the Mystic is the removal of Spell Power for its damage boost to its Fire and Force damage. Instead, all core enhancements grant a stacking equivalent of Melee Power bonus. This is confusing to me because, of all the Monk classes, the Mystic’s original design was to leverage ki offensively like no other. Instead, the changes simply add in passive offensive boosts to a class that was doing just fine when swinging the staff, but had limited means to weaponize ki when using it.

Here’s a confusing one from the notes, which I must assume is in error. Sounding Staff now gives +2 ki per hit (removing the Implement bonus for Spell Power) and grants the Quick Draw feat. Uh, doesn’t the Quick Draw feat grant increases to rate of fire for ranged and thrown  weapons, not attack speed to the Mystic’s primary weapon, the quarterstaff? Is this feat supposed to augment the Ki Bolt ranged attack, which also gets a boost per Monk level rather than every two levels?

(Update: Teacher Ziindarax, a member of the Player’s Council, corrected me on a mistake in the Ninja Spy tier 5 and noted the logic of Quick Draw. “Quick Draw does benefit weapons, but it’s also being buffed so that you can actually attack faster after casting a spell or spell-like ability. Presumably, this would mean (for example) that if you had a warlock that used the Eldritch Burst or Spirit Blast abilities, and then tried to use a regular attack immediately afterwards, you would not suffer that irritating delay between the SLA and your regular melee/ranged attack. Instead, you get to attack instantly. Just to answer the question posed in your article as to how Quick Draw would benefit a Henshin Mystic.”)

The last core enhancement, Serenity, no longer gives Spell Power-related effects, goes to +4 WIS and adds +25 Melee Power.

Still trying to make the old original Ninja Spy enhancements useful, each Elemental Word gains 2{W} and +2 stacks to Vulnerability per hit. I guess the Melee Power bonuses to the elemental ki strikes used here might make for some great boosts to total damage.

Also, Void Strike remains at tier 5, virtually inaccessible to any other Monk, but gains 3[W] and its Force damage scales to Melee Power.

Some AP reductions to Mystic Training and Embrace the Void (not “Voice” as shown in the notes), requiring 1 AP to train. Also, the damage bonuses to Focus stack with other sources.

Lastly, the complicated Every Light Casts a Shadow enhancement now delivers 1d2 negative levels immediately on-hit to surrounding enemies, and 1d4 to the target.

That’s it for the Mystic. No attack speed or defense improvements.Spell Power-based attacks such as Incinerating Wave and  Cauldron of Flame aren’t mentioned in terms of what damage they create since the Spell Power boosts are being ripped out of the tree. Worthless enhancements like Negotiator and Mystic Training still remain. And you’ll still need to splash a Rogue to gain attack speed bonuses or (cheaper) Shintao abilities for defense.

I loved the potential of the Mystic’s attack power (and gushed about it here long ago) but it still lacks highly important defenses as it generates a terrible amount of aggro and cannot withstand such damage as Shintao Monks can do. I don’t see myself returning or recommending the Mystic unless there’s a way to improve defense and attack speed without multiclassing or using excessive AP in other Monk trees.

Until then, my two Mystics remain bank characters.

What Do You Think?

If you could make suggestions to the devs (and I dare say you should try), what would you ask them to adjust for these proposed adjustments to the Monk enhancements?

While the Shintao changes are good, and the Ninja Spy unbelievably improved, the Mystic’s adjustment make little sense other than improving its “El Kabong” mentality and further distancing its potential ability to wield ki for greater offense, defense or speed.

Fire away in the comments here.