Zen Archery and Returning Again and Again

archer

I’ve been mostly re-leveling Pynthetica. She completed a run as a new Monk archer build, the Shadowbow Ninja (great damage) and is now back as a Zen Archer with her second Epic True Resurrection.

On Pyn’s first eTR, the larger problem was finding and using all the lower level equipment. Not the bows: I had several good ones, especially the free Unwavering Ardency (from the 10th Anniversary Party) that’s more than powerful enough until you can wield a Pinion. I simply wanted useful goggles, boots, trinkets and the like.

Cannith Crafting to the rescue. Update 32’s revised features really helped customize new tools that supported normal and Insightful bonuses for any items. Most importantly, anything I made with bound shards is bound-to-account, making storage of the items easier by transferring them to my bank characters as I TR.

By finally getting my crafting level up to level 29 or so right now, Pyn’s equipped with Tendon Slice and Armor Piercing bonuses, Insightful Dodge and ability scores. Fortification was the only thing I couldn’t swing in, so I had to use some older Heroic items to keep it (and Deathblock) in place until I reached level 25 or so. On return to level 28 (where the bulk of my best gear is usable at minimum level), the central crafted items may be the goggles (WIS/Insightful WIS for maximum Ranged Power and AC), boots (Dodge/Insightful Dodge), gloves (DEX/Insightful DEX, Tendon Slice) and perhaps bracers as a wild card (Resistance). The necklace slot is also up for grabs as the Epic Golden Guile is less useful now, but I have no idea what to add. Same is true for perhaps one ring.

As to what Epic Past Life feats I choose? Doubleshot and Fortification. I wanted a quick 2nd Doubleshot feat after epic life #2 but I was impatient in rebuilding that karma back in the Primal tree. I’ll grab that second Doubleshot stack (3% per stack, maximum 3 stacks) on another eTR.

Changes with Updates 33 and Improved Deception did affect the Zen Archer build with mostly positives than negative. For one, more Dodge and stacking maximum Dodge with the Monk stance adjustments, so Pyn has around 38% Dodge (with items) in Water stance. But what the stances gave, it also took away by moving the critical threat multiplier from Earth stance to Fire stance. As Fire stance is rather WIS-lowering and gives no benefits while in ranged attack, the Zen Archer would only go to Earth stance for a little more PRR now. Wind stance remains only useful for a DEX boost and gives no other benefit for a ranged (as opposed to thrown) weapon user.

The bluff spinning effect that Improved Deception created was defined as a bug with Update 34, so that’s gone. More challenging is the aggro change in shooting one enemy in or near a group of others, which aggros the entire group. For me, I’ve adjusted my gameplay to use height and barriers that restrict a mob’s ability to bum-rush my party. I still use two or three hirelings (thanks for the extra kitty, SSG) in solo play to grab the aggro first when practical.

When there’s nothing to slow down a zerg attack, I ramp up my own. The Zen Archer still has potent damage per target with all of its Ranged Power and the ability to use Ten Thousand Stars and Manyshot to improve attack speed and Ranged Power. She may not be using Improved Precise Shot (she’s a sniper) but she takes down single enemies so rapidly that the change isn’t particularly bad. (I am considering, as you should, adding IPS as an option for faster clearing as one of my last Epic feats, since the aggro change can work against you.)

Combined with the right bow, mobs of 10 or more are killed rapidly. Add in a few uses of Shiradi talents such as Otto’s Whistler and Pin and smaller groups are easily managed.

The Zen Archer’s talent to stand and defeat armies of enemy archers remains very good. With the extra Dodge in Water stance, it’s better. No other ranged/thrown weapons character I know of could stand toe-to-toe against the gnolls in Epic “Chains of Flame” without losing 3/4 of their HP or worse. With all her defenses up, Pyn might lose 1/8 of her HP.

So, I’m considered the new Racial Reincarnation options. As an Elf, Pyn could work to get that extra +1 DEX and Action Point. But frankly, I see this new option as a bit underwhelming, especially since the price of using Racial Reincarnation works like a Heroic True Reincarnation (favor, flags, quest completions reset, empty your TR cache). That’s a lot of sacrifice for a little gain. And Racial Reincarnation is mutually exclusive to other reincarnations. You can’t make both a Racial and Heroic/Epic TR at the same time.

 

The Shadowbow Ninja

The recent changes to the Monk enhancement trees enhanced the already-great Ninja Spy tree. Of note:

  • Advanced Ninja Training: Any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield while Centered gains bonuses.
  • Diversion: For 50 ki, you create a hate-magnet training dummy (Cooldown: 3 minutes)
  • Ninja Master: +2 DEX and +2 WIS, Vorpal gained on any non-handwrap, non-quarterstaff weapon you can wield, +1 Competence bonus to critical hit multiplier.

I saw one immediate benefit to my Zen Archer and Bowmaster: I could save some AP by removing Aerenal Grace from the Elf tree since Advanced Ninja Training provided DEX-to-Damage for longbows. That’s done.

Then I kept looking at the new Ninja tree as a whole. Next to the Rogue and its trees, it is the strongest class for Sneak Attack damage (The Deepwood Stalker has better general ranged Sneak Attack but you have to power it first). I’ve leveraged this with the Zen Archer, adding a bit of Sneak Attack damage that procs when the many Deception effects and items she carries Bluffs the enemy and adds in that damage.

But the Sneak Attack bonuses were a bonus, not the focus of the Zen Archer.

So what would happen if you could maximize the power of Sneak Attack from a ranged perspective while also providing better Ranged Power to magnify all that, all while not compromising the basic miss-chance defenses of the ninja?

So I started drawing out a new build. I call it the Shadowbow Ninja.

Pynthetica-Shadowbow.jpgAll-Monk, all-ninja, a little Harper, and Elf. Unlike the other Zen bow-wielders, the Shadowbow uses the full Ninja Spy tree, gaining the full Sneak Attack bonuses as well as all the core enhancements. In particular, the last core, Ninja Master, adds more DEX and WIS, Vorpal on any equipped bow (and other weapons) and bonus to the crit multiplier.

The Shadowbow is a sniper, as does the Zen Archer, but it isn’t as dependent on the bow. With a pair of shortswords, it can do the standard deadly ninja stuff: Finishing moves to debilitate and eliminate targets, and Ninja Poison in melee fighting.

In this respect, the Shadowbow shares more traits with the traditional Ranger, alternating between ranged and melee attack. But the Shadowbow Ninja is all-Monk, gaining the benefits of stronger defenses than many Rangers, particularly the miss-chance effects and high Reflex saves, perhaps higher than the Zen Archer itself.

Like the Zen Archer, the Shadowbow adds in additional Ranged Power points through a few points in Harper Agent. She also takes advantage of a new ninja enhancement: Action Boost: Melee/Ranged Power, to get a +20 boost no matter the attack style.

The new Deadly Striker tier 5 adds a +1 Competence bonus to the bow’s critical threat range.

The Shadowbow sacrifices the improved defenses of the Zen Archer for that extra damage, so Pyn says goodbye to Deflect Arrows and her Elven Shadow Dragonmark for gaining Displacement. But Paracleta is similar limited so thankfully the loss of these two defenses can be worked around.

The Shadowbow is very stealthy, as are most ninjas. Because of the bonuses from Ninja Spy, she can also wield shurikens quite well, although not with as much prowess as the Poison Master (a Drow that gains natural proficiency bonuses) while similar to the Shuricannon, at least with Vorpal thrown weapons.

In any attack where the enemy is bluffed, aggroed or helpless, the Shadowbow takes full advantage. With vorpal, Sneak Attack and No Mercy  in play, there’s 30% more damage to helpless–and ninjas can make enemies helpless in three separate ways by melee. In Heroic play, effects such as Freezing Ice can make enemies helpless through ranged attacks, but in Epic, the gloves are off with Shiradi Champion’s Nerve Venom freezing enemies, as well as using a Twist of Fate to stack more helpless damage from Fury of the Wild’s Sense Weakness, which stacks with No Mercy. The Vorpal will help a lot against weaker trash.

It should be noted that Sneak Attack has a range limit. Deepwood Stalkers can extend their range, but all others are stuck with a maximum 49-foot distance for applying Sneak Attack with ranged or thrown weapons. This makes the Shadowbow a closer-range attacker for best damage. Pyn still uses a lot of Deception items to cause Bluff effects to slow the enemy down, even if Sneak Attacks cannot occur.

One feat I’ve been dying to add to the Zen bow-wielders with little success was Shot on the Run, recently updated to add +3 Ranged Power in addition to cancelling out any penalties to attack rolls while moving. The Shadowbow can be stationary and build up its Archer’s Focus bonuses to Ranged Power, or haul ass across the battlefield with a barrage of arrows like the Zen Bowmaster but have more superiority in a running attack with a bit more Ranged Power. If this feat doesn’t seem that effective, I can trade it out and reapply AP in the Elf tree for her Shadow Dragonmark and gain Displacement again.

If the going gets rough, the Shadowbow owns the full ninja utility belt: Flash Bang to blind and daze a group, or Diversion to throw a hate-magnet on the field while gaining Invisibility for a few seconds. The Update 33 change only requires 50 ki for this with a cooldown of 3 minutes, so it’s no longer tied to your 2 Meditation turns. That lends the ability be used more often as a tactical tool, such as luring a large mob from your path forward or aiding your rescue attempts in a pitched battle where most or all of your party is dead and you must grab soulstones.

In Epic play, Shadowdancer is a wonderful complement to the build. She’s even adopted a new hooded dark archer look, thanks to glamered clothing derived on the Night Revels gear. With that stuff on, he’s certainly more haunting with Shadow Form (see the image above).

Other melee destinies that worked with the Zen Archer should be useful as well. I love using all the Shadowdancer abilities, especially Executioner’s Shot and causing chaos in enemy packs with Shadow Manipulation. Very fun when dominating a Shadar-kai into chain-whipping the mobs for you while you sneak by to your real targets.

I was eager to try out this build, which I’ve mapped out successfully using Character Builder Lite. I decided to send Pynthetica, the veteran Zen Archer, down this route, and she’s become my first Epic Reincarnation, working her way back up from level 20. I chose the Primal karma to take the Epic Past Life feat Doubleshot for 3% more.

She’s now fully geared as I can make her with a completed Thunder-Forged Longbow with Mortal Fear (which I can’t use until level 28), heroic and Legendary Green Steel Longbows, and many other early bound-to-character bows, so she won’t be lacking for weaponry as she grows, although early levels leave me using my Unwavering Ardency much of the time. Would be great to get Blazing Embers with the upgrade with a Seal of the Black Abbot, which means some time in the rather-boring Orchard of the Macabre. But blinded is helpless and that would help.

Pyn did craft a new rare item: An Epic Bow of the Silver Flame, which works well with its blunt damage against skeletal and mummy undead (with a level 20 Fire gem) when I’m not using my triple-positive Greater Disrupting Heroic Green Steel bow.

I’ve also done something I’ve not done before on a Monk before: A greater effort to experiment with Use Magic Device on this build to add a few extra tricks. I added a little more INT to get the needed skill points without compromising her stealth or Spot skills and adding in CHA and UMD/Insightful UMD items with Heroism potions to raise the UMD DC as best I can.

At level 21 I can use scrolls like Knock and Shield (but although I meet the chance to use Knock, some things, like the locked chest in Spies in the House, just don’t open with my Knock and I don’t know why). I will need higher levels to equip items to raise my skill to use Raise Dead. I want Pyn to be able to perform rescues–gods know there have been some raids where party wipes have been rather tough to recover without a good rescuer amidst alert, temporarily victorious enemies.

Guess that also means I should work on fishing for the popular but oh-so-rare Cursed Blade of Jack Jibbers.

I need to play with her a little bit more before I post the CBL build data. And I still have a lot of rewrites due for the Monk guide, among other real-life challenges.

A Final Review of My Builds

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

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

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

The Zen Archer

build1a

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

Best environments:

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

Worst environment:

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

Strengths and Weaknesses:

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

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

The Zen Bowmaster

build2b.jpg

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

Best environment: Enemies with low Will saves.

Worst environment:

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

Strengths and Weaknesses:

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

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

The Poison Master Ninja

build3a

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

Best environment: Enemies with low Fortitude saves.

Worst environment:

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

DPS and Weaknesses:

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

Detailed information can be found in the Monk guide.

Zen Eternal

ScreenShot01776I’ve played little else than Pynthetica lately. She’s my second oldest character, a human Ranger AA gone all Elven Monk, now aiding me in perfecting my Zen Archer build beyond what Mericletica began on the Cannith server.

I’ve purposefully halted any level ups at 25 for a time to get Pyn more abilities she never received in your first two lives. As a human Ranger she sat at level 20 for months before Update 17 and the Menace of the Underdark expansion. I tinkered with her a little bit but then left her alone again for months. When the enhancement pass came around, I finally had an idea for her and TR’ed her into the first concept of the Zen Archer. It didn’t go very well as her ranged damage bit and I TR’d her again by level 22.

In neither first or second life did I give Pyn enough playtime to build up any Epic Destiny. So, now, I don’t want her to slack again in her third life. I want to give her all the things.

That starts with level 26, the first Epic Destiny feat. Often on all characters I just take Toughness, which requires no completed sphere. Nay, nay! to that, this time, not for the neglected Pynthetica. I’m simply building all the destinies, not just for choosing something other than Toughness, but to gain more Fate points to improve her lot as she moves forward. I finally wised up and did this with Mericletica and then began destiny build-ups to many others. It’s clear I had a fear with that.

But I wanted to take things a step or ten farther, especially with level 30 now available.

  • Train one Divine sphere destiny before taking level 26. That was building up Unyielding Sentinel after completing Shiradi Champion, Grandmaster of Flowers, and Primal Avatar. That unlocked the level 26 Epic Destiny feats Guardian Angel and Holy Strike. Guardian Angel gives PRR equal to your WIS for 30 seconds if your HP<=50%. Holy Strike adds Ghost Touch and 10d6 untyped damage to Evil. I picked Holy Strike.
  • Take Blinding Speed at level 27 for permanent Haste. It requires no prerequisites. Now my Ranged attack speed is 22%. It could still be improved with Gilvaenor’s Ring and Gilvaenor’s Necklace, which, combined, add a stacking 10% Competence bonus to ranged alacrity for a grand total of 32% ranged alacrity. I’ll have to convince a lot of people to run “Tower of Despair” in order to get that ring, and several runs through “Genesis Point” to find that necklace.
  • Complete 2 Primal destinies before level 28. That’s for the 10% additional Doubleshot feat, of course. That’s completed.
  • Complete Shadowdancer, Legendary Dreadnought and all remaining Divine destinies before level 29. These three capped Martial destinies and three Divine destinies (with several more Fate points as a side benefit) open the level 29 Epic Destiny feat Embodiment of Law for 10 Bane damage to all enemies and 20 Law damage against Chaotic enemies. It’s a lot of grinding, but where am I going?
  • Choose a level 30 Legendary Feat.
  • Complete Fury of the Wild to have maximum karma in the Primal Sphere.
    • That’s right–as a reward for being neglected for so long, Pynthetica gets to be my first Epic True Reincarnation. I want the Primal Sphere’s Epic Past Life feat 3% bonus to Doubleshot, and will return as a Zen Archer again and again.

Since the initial announcement, some things have changed about Legendary Feats. So Scion of the Ethereal Plane is less attractive as a result, so now I’m looking to others.

Not sure of the simple buffs of Scion of Arborea are as good: +20 Ranged Power, +2 to Enhancement Bonus of the bow. I leaned then to Scion of Limbo. There are eight buffs that pop on for 1 minute and cycle randomly, but most of them very useful. 40 Ranged Power, or 16% Doubleshot, 30 PRR, 20% Dodge and 40 to Healing Amplification, 1d20 Chaos damage, and so on.

But it’s Scion of the Astral Plane that won my internal debate. It adds 4% Doubleshot plus another 4% while Centered (woot!) as well as 4% Dodge and 4 to the Dodge cap. That brings the dodge cap benefits from being a Ninja Spy (the Zen Archer’s secondary enhancements) up from a 30% cap to a 34% Dodge.

So my miss-chance numbers go up: 34% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment. I’d love to invite the crazies in our meta-guild into an Epic Elite “Prison of the Planes” to get a shot at a level 25 Ring of Shadows with Lesser Displacement at 25% Concealment. And I’ve still got 3 Displacement dragonmarks, each lasting about 5 minutes thanks to a Harper Agent enhancement. A Pendant of Quiet Movements or certainly the Token of the Proven might require less deaths to obtain. I’d prefer the trinket as I have little else to add there now, rather than sacrifice my Epic Golden Guile. These stacking Improved Deception effects really slow down charging enemies.

With 20% Doubleshot (3% Elf, 2% Guild Buff, 5% from the Dynamistic Quiver, and 10% Doubleshot Epic Destiny Feat), this final feat would give me 28% Doubleshot. I just scored the 8% Epic Dynamistic Quiver to give me 23% Doubleshot at level 28. With that last destiny this goes to the highest I can make without Epic Past Life feats or special temporary buffs: 31% standing Doubleshot. That’s not bad at all for a pure elven Monk with mixed enhancements. Szyncletica the Shroud-soloing Shuricannon hasn’t any appreciable Doubleshot.

Also, level 29 and 30 give additional Fate points and a fourth slot, making it easy to add things like Otto’s Whistler or Grim Precision to a build that needs every advantage to survive Legendary Tempest’s Spine and Shroud. Our guild is stoked on trying these very soon.

Shadowdancer or Grandmaster of Flowers will be my raid destiny for maximum defense or offense, respectively. Both give decent damage. It’s Grandmaster’s font of high passive ki regeneration, offensive ki attacks, Everything is Nothing, and boosts to weapon base damage that will allow me to use Ten Thousand Stars almost continually every 30 seconds and ward off the largest mobs. It’s Shadowdancer’s higher Ranged Power, extra fortification bypass with Grim Precision, boosts to fill in my Dodge cap to maximum and continuous 25% incorporeality in Shadow Form that helps in raids where there are proportionally fewer but tougher enemies (such as the devils and portals in the Shroud).

Extra Credit: Upgrade my Thunder-Forged Longbow, and build a Legendary Bow worthy of a Zen Archer.

I have no idea what kind of bow to build for Legendary Shroud.

Zen Balance

ScreenShot01734

I’ve been amiss in getting updates to the Zen Archer build as I finalized its Epic settings. As I might have mentioned before, it turned out to be an easy build to level up destinies while in off-destiny, once I was able to get three Fate slots opened to have Pin, A Dance of Flowers (GMoF weapon damage) and the ever-popular Rejuvenation Cocoon available no matter what destiny was in use.

I took a bit more time to train through Legendary Dreadnought, Unyielding Sentinel and Divine Crusader to get the necessary points for a tier 2 slot 2 upgrade and a tier 3 slot 1 upgrade. This allows the use of Grim Precision for extra fortification bypassing against portal gateways.

You might see where I’m going with this.

ScreenShot01738

I hope to take Mericletica, the first complete Epic Zen Archer (save a few pieces of gear in the new Update 27 quests and “Haunted Halls”) into a solo Shroud run, emulating her sister, Szyncletica.

With Meri’s slower shot speed, despite her higher weapon damage and critical hits, I needed the best fortification bypass I could generate. Here’s what she’ll have going into such a run, with Grandmaster of Flowers as the active destiny.

  • Precision: 25%
  • Grim Precision: 15%
  • Piercing Clarity: 10%
  • Trapsmith’s Workshop ship buff: 5%
  • Black Dragonscale Robe’s Armor-Piercing: 10%

That’s 65% fortification bypass, which should help take down those portal gateways well enough, once I make a few tests. Aside from getting a Deconstructor augment slot to add Improved Destruction for fortification damage, I don’t have anything else to add here through training.

I’ll use my tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow as usual for maximum damage. If I could run the Thunderholme raids regularly, I could struggle for ingredients to get tier 2 and gain 35% Armor-Piercing on that bow for a terrific 85% bypassing.

I’m able to take down a portal in about 35 seconds without Manyshot in earlier tests, but I need to work on increasing my consistent power and attack before trying a Shroud. Raids are different, of course, so I’d have to ensure that Meri’s defenses are strongest to survive alone there.

I’ve finally updated the details finalized for using the build in my forum thread, since it wasn’t quite clear-cut as I ask you to configure the character one way for Heroic and then adjust behavior based on Epic play. It is worth it, but I can’t help you see that without more information. Thanks for your patience.

Alright, Enough with the IPS

By the way, the forum thread has had several responses, one generously kind but critical, another not so much, about the addition of Improved Precise Shot into the build.

I refuse. In fact, that the build’s gotten very very far without it, even surviving more EE attempts than Szyn has done is  proof that IPS isn’t what this build’s best at doing.

I think IPS will do nothing more than get the Zen shit-kicked out of it because of excessive aggro, and game mechanics prove this. One notes how I rely on hirelings as aggro-magnets, but this is no different than Rogues and mages hanging around with players. The Zen Archer does not lead the charge, but it certainly concludes it. I don’t build characters to be Avatars of Untold Slaughter of Millions By Themselves. That’s the monkcher. Go read about that one.

So the only conclusion I can make is that people really don’t understand that I don’t play my characters with absolute power or completion speed in mind. Like many of my characters, the Zen Archer takes its time, destroys with near-impunity depending on the quest, and walks home without a death and some loot. The Zen Archer is a ninja archer and relies on powerful surprise attacks to end enemies fast. Just as my melee ninjas don’t try to aggro the whole dungeon, I don’t do so with this archer.

Of course I’m enjoying the reversal of the game mechanics that don’t easily alert other enemies to when one of their allies is being punctured. Isn’t everyone?

So, if you think that not having IPS is crippling, add it in and see what happens. I won’t be.

This will likely be the last post on the Zen Archer for a while unless I pull off a Shroud victory with one (one chance in 3, as opposed to even-money with the Shuricannon). I need to concentrate on greater documentation for it in the Monk guide, and then set off for different things.

DDO Zen Archer: The Completed Build

Mericletica5I’ve fully trained my Zen Archer build. Equipping this first one, Mericletica, will still take time on the quieter realm of the Cannith server, but all the central enhancements and initial destinies are done. I’ve still got the level 16 Pynthetica to complete on Ghallanda, but as a third-life it’s going so slow to level her.

The build’s a great alternative that delivers damage while providing all the benefits of complete Monk levels in both offense and defense.

This post is also a kind of apology and shout-out to Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build. I’ve been so ADHD or just plain overwhelmed in other matters that I’ve only begun a 2.0 ‘Cannon and so haven’t been able to talk much about it. The Zen Archer has been my obsession of late, and that time spent was worth it by adapting concepts from the ‘Cannon, as I’ll explain.

Shuricannon’s Slower Kin

I’ve talked extensively on the original Shuricannon. Firewall has since upgraded the build to deliver more fortification bypassing for more damage.

Much of the Zen Archer’s design is very similar to the Shuricannon, directly or in principle.

  • High miss-chance and general defenses (30% Dodge, 25% Incorporeality, 20% Concealment).
    • Firewall’s build adds in Lesser Displacement (25% Concealment) from an upgraded robe from “Temple of Elemental Evil.” I’m working on that myself. Unlike his Drow-based build, however, I go Elven, and have the Shadow Dragonmark for invisibility and Displacement. Saekee’s tip to use Harper Agent’s Magic of Patience enhancement allows me a 5-minute Displacement at level 28, reducing the need to get Green Steel clickies. The differing playstyle reduces the need for the number of Displacements.
    • All points in DEX give a high Reflex as well as damage as noted below. That Reflex save has only failed me twice, in an Epic Normal run (I think) in “Ghost of a Chance.” There’s a very nasty blade trap there that laughed at my 64-ish Reflex save and chopped me to bits. Same for the trap guarding the elemental engine of the prime enemy airship in “Precious Cargo.”
    • The Zen Archer’s role is the opposite of the ‘Cannon. The ‘Cannon is a capable “flying tank,” with its Monk speed, PRR and miss-chance. However, by Epic, it only uses ki for Ten Thousand Stars with Shadow Veil. The Zen Archer uses ki more often for GMoF attacks in that mode. When in other destinies, I try to twist Enlightenment for +1 passive ki. Else, I have only +2 passive ki when in Sneak and from Ultimate Ocean Stance. The Zen Archer is a sniper.
  • Hard Hitting DPS.
    • The Shuricannon specializes in higher DPS by leveraging Doubleshot-like advantages from both the Drow-granted Shuriken Expertise feat and the Ninja Spy’s core abilities, specifically Advanced Ninja Training.
    • The Zen Archer is an Elven build. Firewall took Drow for Shuriken Expertise and damage bonuses, and Ninja Spy for DEX-to-Damage with stars and other damage bonuses. Along similar lines of reason, I chose Elf to give immediate proficiency for longbows and, with training, DEX-to-Damage with bows. Both Zen Archer and Shuricannon then ramp up DEX to the maximum possible to deliver damage. As bows don’t gain further benefits in Heroic DPS beyond Sneak Attack damage and  the No Mercy enhancement from Ninja Spy, I adjusted my build to concentrate on the benefits of the Harper Agent enhancements to add Ranged Power and, later, stacking Deception to slow and Bluff enemies, where SA gains additional damage. By Epic, I’m adding more bow damage from the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny, using A Dance of Flowers and Piercing Clarity on top of the destiny’s Ranged Power and Epic Power leveling bonuses.
    • Further, the Zen Archer’s longbows deliver greater base damage per hit. My Szyncletica’s best stars see 60-75 damage per hit, although there are a lot of other effects that certain shuriken gain for DPS per hit, especially Ninja Poison, which the Zen Archer cannot do. The Zen Archer’s base hits with a Thunder-Forged Longbow at level 28, in Grandmaster of Flowers, is 150+ once all competency bonuses are up. I tested the overall DPS on the planar gateway portal in Aussircaex’s Valley. While Szyncletica could take that portal down in about 45 seconds with Ten Thousand Stars, Mericletica with Manyshot blasted that thing to bits in under 30 seconds. I still have a TTS and normal bow test for her, but the base damage is clearly superior with a bow, even if the total sustained DPS works differently. I have Manyshot and TTS and better Doubleshot outside of this, versus Szyn. However, I didn’t let Szyn train two destinies to gain the Doubleshot feat to further improve her sustained attack. Meri’s fortification bypass is also superior to Szyncletica’s, which started off on Shiradi Champion to immediately benefit from Whirling Wrists and related damage enhancements. Shuricannon 2.0, with gear, can get higher bypassing.
    • Like the ‘Cannon, bonuses to critical hit threat and range ramp up the damage. But here, the Zen Archer sees critical hits in the 1500 or greater range since, with Earth Stance and Overwhelming Critical, I get a x5 effective multiplier (the ‘Cannon does this too after a fashion and with another destiny). I never saw such critical hit numbers with my ‘Cannon, but again, DPS is subjective. I do see similar take-down speed with the Zen Archer as the ‘Cannon. However, both builds are played very differently. The ‘Cannon is a berserking, running attacker. The Zen Archer is a calm, near-motionless, balanced sniper. As such, the ‘Cannon clears more enemies per minute, but the Zen Archer can zap down a single tougher enemy as fast yet not endanger itself. I clear rooms and dungeons very well. I just do so one enemy at a time as fast as possible.

Mericletica6

  • Defensive advantages from full Monk training.
    • The Shuricannon has stronger innate magic protection from the start as Drow gain Spell Resistance that grows as they do. The Monk’s Diamond Soul feat adds this in at level 13 for the Zen Archer. The two features are identical and, thus, don’t stack on the Shuricannon. Grandmaster of Flowers and an airship buff add a little more stacking bonus.
    • I managed to work in the highest fortification I have ever made on a character with the Zen Archer: 205%. This comes from a 25% Exceptional Fortification loot-gen helm, 40% from the Unyielding Sentinel’s Brace for Impact, 125% Fortified gloves, and guild ship bonuses that filled in the rest. This should ensure that the Zen Archer can stand and fire without as much concern against any melee enemies that get too close, except Champions, the bane of many a build, which often can ignore one or more of the Zen Archer’s passive defenses.
    • The Zen Archer is still a ninja at heart and has very strong Hide/Move Silently skills to go where it wants without detection. Having Abundant Step is key here–and having sufficient ki to use it repeatedly without compromising my ki store.
    • The Zen Archer in Grandmaster of Flowers mode regenerates +4 ki at maximum, gaining a maximum 240 ki held fully charged. I can use many offensive and defensive abilities without dangerously depleting my ki pool in extended fights, and regenerate ki very rapidly between each battle. It also allows the use of shrines to recharge my spell points without worrying about ki loss.
    • I still find the Way of the Sun Soul set helpful for the Zen defense. To go with the miss-chances, Reflex saves, Improved Evasion, high fortification and Spell Resistance comes the 25% damage-reducing Radiant Forcefield effect that often procs while in Earth Stance while I deliver maximum critical hit damage from that stance’s benefits to weapon.
    • The only enemies that make the Zen Archer move are Champions. They threaten one or more of my defenses at all times. But keeping GMoF as the central destiny grants me emergency damage through the knockdown effect of Drifting Lotus, where I can then Pin that enemy and eliminate it.
  • Gear.
    • Both Zen Archer and ‘Cannon use similar gear, outside of the weapons, of course. In my case, as I don’t run as many specific quests as Firewall is able to do to get the best of the best, I’m still adding in effects that both builds enjoy to squeeze that last bit of DPS from every shot. In fact, youshould be able to use the same gear for thisbuild as the ‘Cannon if you’re able to obtain it. Here’s what I have for now.
      • Fortification bypass.
        • Shuricannon 2.0 revels in this, and the Zen Archer took more than a few pointers here. It’s one reason why I’ve found that the Grandmaster of Flowers destiny provides the best overall offensive and defensive balance for this build.
        • You can gain more DPS from Shiradi Champion and more burst DPS from Fury of the Wild, but GMoF’s Piercing Clarity adds 10% additional fortification bypassing to go with the 25% of Precision feat for 35%, and a 5% guild buff for 50% currently. I’ve trained up a bit of Shadowdancer and used Grim Precision and its 15% bypass bonus.
        • If I train up more destinies for more fate points, I could upgrade a Twist of Fate slot for tier 3 to use that as well for 65% with Grim Precision. Even Heroic level Black Dragonscale Robes will add 10% Armor-Piercing for 75%. I’m making routing Heroic Elite runs into Gianthold Tor, quickly gathering 3 White and Black scales for the next lives and using that armor. On Cannith, I don’t see a lot of opportunities to build Flawless Black Dragonscale Robes for 15% Armor-Piercing, but hope springs eternal with an LFM.
      • Two key rings, the Ring of Shadows and Seal of House Avithoul, provide Hide/Move Silently defenses, Blurry, 10% standing Incorporeality (saving ki to reduce use of Ninja Spy’s Shadow Veil) with Improved Deception (stacks with the Harper Agent enhancement) and Sneak Attack bonuses. This slows charging enemies but also greatly slows attacks by even Red Named enemies when Manyshot is running. The continuous high-speed hits tend to permanently turn away bosses and slow their attacks, making take-down faster.
      • Shadowdancer’s permanent Shadow Form will save some ki later here.
      • Saekee and I learned during an EE run into “The Claw of Vulkoor” that Deception effects per player tend to “lock up” bosses to the point where they can’t make attacks or defense. They’re in a state of permanent Bluff while the DPS holds. Saekee had at least one Deception effect and I have two.
      • Defensively, the Way of the Sun Soul set also helps in Earth Stance with PRR bonuses, including a boost from Standing with Stone. I do want to add a Sheltering augment somewhere to fortify my total soak damage reduction to around 45-60 PRR.
      • I have unlocked a Spider-Spun Caparison outfit with Improved Dexterity +3 for more HP. Replacing the Boots of the Woodsman I’ve worn are a pair of Surefooted Boots. This grants the Mobility feat for 2% more Dodge but also has a Green augment slot where a Topaz of Power +150 sits to give more spell points for Rejuvenation Cocoon.
      • Replaced my Nightforge Gorget with a temporary necklace with Wisdom +8 and a Yellow augment slot used with a Deathblock gem. I hope to find the Necklace of Mystic Ediolons for inherent Deathblock, better Improved DEX and CON but also (once upgraded) Augment Summoning for +4 to my summoned and hireling ability scores, which would make them more helpful in Epic Elite, especially running Primal Avatar for additional boosts.
      • The Tier 1 Thunder-Forged Longbow with a Good augment gem is the primary weapon, punching anything it targets, especially dragons. If I find any groups running the Thunder Peak raid enough, further upgrades of the weapon would be nice. I’m getting well-acquainted with “Temple of Elemental Evil” enough to start hunting for the Epic Sapphire Sting, the only other bow that makes the TF bow seem weak.
      • I’ve completed my Shroud flagging. I have one first Green Steel desire: A triple-positive bow for handling undead bosses. I’m confident that Mericletica might do something only Szyncletica has managed: Completing the Shroud alone. The need is less in bragging rights than the low population on Cannith.
  • Destinies and Epic Training
    • I trained more destinies on this character than I ever had on any character to date. I started with GMoF, bypassed Legendary Dreadnought for expediency to get Shiradi Champion and Primal Avatar trained to qualify for level 28 Epic Destiny feats, and trained Shadowdancer to gain more fate points to upgrade slot 1 to tier 2. I plan to train Legendary Dreadnought, Fury of the Wild and Shadowdancer to gain three more fate points to get tier 3 unlocked. I know Firewall loves Divine Crusader, so I’ll be tooling through Unyielding Sentinel for more fate points and to unlock that destiny too.
    • While in Grandmaster of Flowers, I have Pin from Shiradi in an upgraded tier 2 Twist slot and Rejuvenation Cocoon from Primal Avatar in the second and third Twist slots. This allows three important GMoF abilities to stay up without Twisting (Piercing Clarity, A Dance of Flowers for 1.5W damage increase, with Enlightenment and the innate abilities Ubiquity for Tumbling through enemies and Balance in All Things keeping ki regeneration at its maximum while also giving knockdown immunity). GMoF’s offensive powers, also help in defense and damage, especially Drifting Lotus, and it allows me to have the room-obliterating Everything is Nothing available on boss fights.
    • Shiradi Champion works very well at the expense of defense and ki regeneration. Pin and Otto’s Whistler are impressive attack modes that make this destiny great in smaller fight scenarios.
    • Primal Avatar is a great defensive destiny that boosts my character’s outward defenses, specifically with hirelings. The aggro-magnet Elder Dryad allows me to pummel things from afar longer. Of course, Rejuvenation Cocoon is a requirement for most characters and is easy to train. The Zen Archer tries to avoid being too dependent on it as the ultimate balance between DPS and defense is the goal of the build. If the Zen Archer is taking so much damage that Cocoon has to be used all the time, the build’s not doing what it should.
    • The Blinding Speed Epic feat gives permanent Haste for 22% Ranged Alacrity. The level 28 Epic Destiny feat Doubleshot adds 10% Doubleshot for  a total of 15% with Elven and guild ship bonuses.
    • Off-destiny, this build still does good damage, but does enjoy the Ranged Power bonuses from each destiny. That said, Fury of the Wild’s intentionally nerfed +1 Ranged Power (balancing out the monkchers that use that) is less attractive than GMoF and Shiradi or Shadowdancer.

The Final Build

I’ll be pasting the final build later on my forum thread for anyone to import into Character Builder Lite, and update the first post with the final information.

I have a video to share of this build tackling a battle to give an idea of its power. The Zen Archer isn’t bad at all in Epic Elite, but you do have to pick battles with care as you would any character.

Comments welcome. Be sure to click the “CC” for captioning that explains the tactics as the video goes along.

The Case for Fortification…and More

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

The shield: A symbol of fortification. Your type is different, or not.

Was watching the latest video tutorial from Axel, where he’s discussing how to increase your character’s survivability. As his character plows through Epic Elite “Lords of Dust,” starting with Merideth, he notes, with emphasis, that he’s not going to discuss several topics: saves (which are “class-dependent”), AC (believing that super-high AC isn’t possible) and Evasion (which, he says, is outmoded by heavy armor, which seems contradictory to having AC).

I smile at his informative talk as he lets his Ranger/Monk/Cleric loose. I know he’s this specific multiclass because he has a yellow bar (ki: Two Monk levels for Evasion), a Ranger class symbol, and is able to purify the altars in that quest, which requires Divine levels.

Axel has great information for melee characters and it’s definitely recommended. But that video wasn’t for me. My Epic Elite experience with evasive classes (Monk, Rogue) is different. And, in the time I had available to watch what I could of the video, Axel didn’t mention one key protection needed for everyone.

I learned, not long after a trip into “The Portal Opens” with Syncletica with the then-new Menace of the Underdark expansion, that Death will come on swift heels to those who lack in Epic protection.

That specific protection is fortification.

In Heroic levels, experienced adventurers often help discouraged neophytes among us after they’re killed with only one or two hits by a monster. Our first question to help is, “What’s your fortification?”

The reply from that adventurer is often, “What?” or “I don’t know.”

For Monks, fortification is critical since we are often front-line or solo fighting.

I suspect that a few of us get confused as to when and what we need in fortification, where we can get it, and why it’s so dang important.

Don’t Die on the First Hit

Fortification, saith the wiki, reduces the chance for your character to suffer additional damage calculated as a critical hit or a sneak attack. Fortification doesn’t stop normal physical damage and is worthless against spell casters.

It’s generally easier now than prior to Update 19 to find fortification resources for any level. Before then, you had to look for items with suffixes of “Light,” “Moderate” and ‘Heavy” fortification. Let’s break down the minimum you should have by character level first.

  • Fortification 25%: The current name of what was once “Light” fortification. Almost all named items for this have no minimum level to use it. There are 10 named items that have this property. However, since Update 19, many loot-generated items (boots, belts and gloves) have the Fortified prefix with fortification levels between 20% to 40% that are still usable by adventurers between level 1 and 5.
  • Fortification 75%: The current name to what was “Moderate” fortification. There are 18 named items with this property. Again, there will be more loot-gen items with the Fortified prefix that should service characters between levels 6-11 with percentages between 40 to 80%.
  • Fortification 100%: Also called “Heavy” fortification. Every character should be wearing this amount by level 12, if not as soon as level 9. By this time, monsters will have a much easier time heavily damaging characters, especially foes that can make Sneak Attacks. Many, many named items exist, including the venerable Minos Legens. My personal favorite, the Nightforge Gorget, since that’s an easily-crafted level 9 item from “A Relic of a Sovereign Past”, with a Yellow augment slot suitable for a Deathblock gem (a topic of protection for another post).

Now, you can also find Heroic items with greater than 100% fortification now, too, which are very helpful in the highest-level Heroic Elite difficulties where monsters will have Epic levels (Challenge Rating 20 and above) while you’re still at character level 18.

But I might not have impressed on you sufficiently as to the importance of fortification, so let me back up some more.

How Critical Hits Work

While critical hits determine extra damage by player characters to enemies when your weapon attack roll is around 19 or 20 and a confirmation roll is also made, the same goes for enemy attacks at your character.

Fortification, again, reduces the chance that you’ll take additional damage as a critical hit or sneak attack despite the enemy’s attack roll.

The easy way to calculate what chances your character will take it to the face is to look at the Challenge Rating (CR) of your enemy by selecting it and using your Examine selection in your focus window. I’ll use the wiki’s examples.

Say you have 50% fortification against a kobold with a CR of 1. That monster has a 51% chance to hit you with a critical hit.

A CR 20 monster hitting a 100% fortified character has a 20% chance at a critical hit. So having the standard maximum fortification in Heroic levels isn’t enough to avoid a nasty slash in higher-difficulty content. Any quests over level 18 will sting on Elite for sure. This doesn’t take into consideration how boss enemies work, or Monster Champions, which now keep even experienced adventurers on their toes because these randomly-found enemies often possess higher CRs and have special buffs that may increase their chances of wailing on you without mercy.

A CR 54 enemy striking a character with 150% fortification has only a 4% chance of scoring that critical hit.

See the pattern?

Epic Fortification

I once joined a guild run into Epic Elite “Devil Assault.” All of us were level 22 or better. We died with ease as CR 44 trash decided it was time to take us out to the curb, rapidly.

The common factor in that total-party-kill was that few of us, if any, had more than 125% fortification. As the last example showed, that’s not enough against any monster of CR 25 or better, especially ones that often flanked us and got sneak attacks. We needed at least 140% fortification to have a 4% chance not to carry home our own entrails back in our arms.

Anyone that’s gone toe-to-toe with the Epic Elite end-boss of “The Lords of Dust,” Karas, will get a harsh lesson in why epic fortification is so critical. His Sneak Attack damage will end you immediately.

So, I make a habit to get any Epic character of mine ready to handle the worst of the worst as best as possible. I recommend at least 150% fortification if you’re going toe-to-toe in any Epic Elite–more if you’ve got it.

Thankfully, getting this isn’t hard at all, keeping in mind some rules.

  1. Standard fortification, an Enhancement bonus, does not stack with other Enhancement bonuses. Only the highest percentage applies. Epic Fortified loot-generated items go up to 125%.
  2. Special fortification types can stack, depending on the bonus descriptions.

So, an item with the Fortified prefix, as with any item that says a percentage of “fortification” are standard levels. None of these stack.

I know Axel’s character has to have at least 150% fortification to survive. Even with very high HP, you take just a couple of critical hits in EE and you’re done.

Special Fortification

But there are items and effects with Exceptional and untyped Fortification levels. Unless the percentages found on these items are the same number, they will stack with each other and standard fortification.

  • Fabricator’s Bracers and Fabricator’s Gauntlets: Once their Nearly Finished property is unlocked, these together provide 25% untyped stacking fortification to any character. The downside is that you must equip both items at the same time, screwing with your Epic equipment feng shui.
  • Exceptional Fortification items and properties: Some loot-generated items will give stacking fortification, up to 25% more, often having the Fortifying prefix (that’s different than Fortified). These fortification bonus is an Insight bonus and stacks with the Enhancement bonus of standard fortification. However, only the highest Insight bonus item applies. Named items such as the Leaves of the Forest medium armor and the Greater Stalwart Trinket share this property.
  • Some enhancement trees and one Epic Destiny provide untyped fortification that stacks with everything.
    • The Sacred Defender tree for Paladins give 2% fortification for each trained core ability.
    • The Paladin-typed Unyielding Sentinel epic destiny has the ability Brace for Impact, a tier 1 ability that any character can train and Twist for 4 destiny points to give a 40% stacking fortification bonus. Alone with a 100% fortification item or effect, many players may have sufficient protection for anything, including a few lighter Epic Elite fights.
  • High level guild airships with the Armory amenity can get up to 15% additional stacking fortification, improved by the Proving Ground state room amenity.

In Practice

My Zen Archer build is meant to stay put, like a turret, firing on anything. Without fortification, that’s certain death when melees are able to close in on me.

Someone left a very low priced Fortifying Helm (note the word difference) on the Auction House in Cannith one day, with 25% stacking Insight bonus to fortification. Yay, me!

I’ve wrapped up training Unyielding Sentinel with my archer to get that tier 1 Twistable ability. I have 190% fortification available, with no less than 125% at any time in her first Epic life. Once I let go of the Nightforge Gorget and wear a 115 to 125% item as I move into level 27-28 gear, I’ll  have over 200%, more than enough fortification for Epic Elite.

Sauce for the Goose

Thankfully, most monsters lack any fortification, making our player character’s critical hits that more damaging.

But a few enemies are fortified against us, reducing our weapon effectiveness. That’s why you can’t sneak attack a skeleton and some constructs and bosses.

But you can train abilities or find items that offer fortification bypassing or reduction. In the case of bypassing, your weapon or attack ignores a certain level of enemy fortification for yourself only. In the case of reduction, it universally lowers the fortification, allowing others in your party to cash in.

Most of these effects stack unless they’re classified as a similar type of bypass or reduction.

  • Precision is a combat feat that allows you to ignore 25% fortification and gain 5% to your to-hit with no penalties.
  • Armor-piercing bypass properties come on items such as the Black Dragonscale Robe, as well as some weapons.
  • Rogues get Opportunist, a feat that also bypasses 10% fortification.
  • The Trapsmith’s Workshop guild ship amenity gives a 5% bypass.
  • Rogue Assassins have Assassin’s Trick for 25% reduction.
  • The Destruction and Improved Destruction property found on weapons is a stacking reduction effect.
  • Improved Sunder, a melee strike, reduces fortification.
  • The Dark Monk’s finishing move, Touch of Despair (Dark/Dark/Dark) reduces fortification by 25%.
  • The Favored Soul’s Shield of Condemnation core ability in Angel of Vengeance can reduce fortification by up to 50%.
  • Weapons with Weaken Construct or Weaken Undead reduce fortification.
  • The Artificer’s and Rogue Mechanic’s Wrack Construct can reduce fortification by as much as 50%.
  • Insult, a Fury of the Wild ability, reduces by 10%. (Be careful of the tier 1 ability, Tunnel Vision, which, while you’re raged, reduces the player’s fortification by 10%.)
  • Piercing Clarity, a Grandmaster of Flowers ability, bypasses up to 10%.

Teacher Firewall’s Shuricannon 2.0 build, from which I draw much inspiration in solidifying the Zen Archer, shows that he can generate a 95% armor-piercing rating with a lot of gear and upgrades that I’ll likely not see. I’ll be happy to have 50%.

For Mericletica the now-Epic Zen Archer, I have Precision with Piercing Clarity for 35% fortification bypass. If she can get a Flawless Black Dragonscale Robe, that can increase by 15% or 20% to get 50 to 55%. In the highly unlikely event I can upgrade to a Tier 2 Thunder-Forged Longbow, the “Dragon’s Edge” upgrade offers 35% Armor-piercing, which is what Firewall crafts in his Thunder-Forged Shuriken.

Note that armor-piercing is a typed effect and usually doesn’t stack with itself, only the highest bonus applies.

The Other Protections

Axel’s information deals with the player type that (1) is generally a melee fighter, which will take a walloping in EE, (2) has time to get the best gear, and (3) multiclasses to get the best of everything. I’m betting, too, that his playstyle is totally different than my own, as the video shows (his style is scream-and-leap melee). Based on the video, he clearly knows his stuff for armored fighting.

My focus is generally on Monks, so what he ignores in this video are actually key to the defense of the EE Monk.

Axel is very right on never focusing on only one area of defense. You need to dabble in as much as possible. But what you can or should dabble depends on your class, and not everyone is going to dabble in several classes to start.

I’ve discussed these Monk defenses in different posts and in the Monk guide at length, but let me summarize what protections are important for the EE Monk aside from fortification.

  • Saves: Saves are the ultimate armor for a Monk. While saves may not be relevant to Axel or other classes save a Paladin, saves determine how likely Monks are going to be hurt or overcome by some types of damage or spells. It’s hard to build a Monk with poor saves: they won’t live through Heroic if you do manage to build a poor one.
  • Spell Resistance: This high passive defense blocks so many spell attacks but few talk about it because the Monk gains this benefit automatically. Few others get this ability, even in Epic play. Monks generally get 30 spell resistance at level 20. If you are Drow, you get this defense earlier, and Grandmaster of Flowers allows a stacking bonus. You can’t get Spell Resistance any other way except from a Cleric/Favored Soul spell.
  • Improved Evasion: It was paradoxical to me that Axel said that Evasion wasn’t necessary for EE play when his character in that video showed a yellow bar, suggesting 2 Monk levels, a common way to get Evasion. Evasion avoids damaging spells and certain trap damage. Since spell casters abound in EE play, Evasion is the old-school way to avoid that problem. Today, heavy armor folks can reduce this damage with Magical Resistance Rating (MRR), which can’t apply with no-armor types. Firewall notes that Improved Evasion is equivalent to 100 MRR, and my gameplay confirms this. Spell Resistance, combined, make Monks very magic-resistant. We can stand in a sea of fire elementals and never get hit by a fireball.
  • Miss-chance: High Dodge, Incorporeality and Concealment are key in many a Monk’s survival, and we can boost these numbers unlike any other class. My Zen Archer relies on maximizing these effects and sustaining them longer than many other classes. Axel discounts them in this one video because of their problems in activating them or their general effectiveness. Since I can get 25% Incorporeal, 20% Concealment and 30% Dodge, I’m far more effective than 10% Ghostly and Blur alone.
  • AC: While AC is less effective at higher difficulties, it’s not ignored. It’s simply one helpful passive defense. Mericletica sits around 84 in Earth Stance, which isn’t bad at all for a non-melee character, which helps a little in mitigation against trash at least.
  • PRR: Physical Resistance Rating’s recent tinkering by the devs makes a little PRR go a longer way. Getting 25 PRR means 20% of any damage is absorbed. PPR helps my Monks when all other defenses are compromised. Combine that with other defenses and life is that more survivable should a hit get through. I’ll want to add a PRR augment gem to get this a little higher.
  • Special gear: I love the Way of the Sun Soul set and how it provides a Radiant Forcefield type effect on you (in Earth Stance) with a critical hit confirmation, reducing damage by 25%. Combined with other damage avoidance and mitigation, this helps the Zen Archer hold her position to boost her damage.

Definitely take the great work that Axel provides and use it, but note that Monks are special and some information there might not apply. Don’t know if Axel does Monks, but based on his smooth video series, I’m sure he has a clue about them.

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