Monday, January 31, 2011

Solo playtesting impressions

I was bored today, and so I decided to playtest a couple of encounters with my solitaire party. The party consists of a Human Staff of Defense Wizard, a Half-Elf Spring Sentinel, an Elf Scout (light blades), and a Dwarf hammer Knight. The first encounter leveled them from 7 to 8.

The Wizard

I've played wizards in 4e only occasionally, despite the fact that they're one of my favorite classes. At least in solitaire sessions, this has largely been because I've always put a Druid in the party as the controller. So some of my Wizard impressions may be a bit of "old news," but nevertheless I'll discuss it.

I love having 3 at-wills, and that was the primary reason why I went with a human (which is a race that I tend not to play that often). Several times during the two encounters I rolled low enough to miss, but high enough that Heroic Effort would have turned the miss into a hit. Drat. I have Winged Horde, Beguiling Strands, and Arc Lightning as my at-wills, and I'm honestly not willing to give up any of them. Arc Lightning is obviously the weakest link from an optimization standpoint, but I just love being able to shoot lightning from my outstretched hands at-will. And besides, WH and BS are both pretty low-damage spells (which is fine since they both offer great control), so I like to have a nice blaster option in my arsenal. Arc Lightning is particularly nice in that the targets don't have to be near each other. I love being able to pop a minion (or finish off a badly bloodied monster) and still soften up another target halfway across the room (or, conversely, finish off two minions/bloodied enemies). It's a nice spell, and making two attack rolls (albeit against different creatures) can somewhat make up for taking a hit in accuracy by not having Heroic Effort (oh, how tending to play Elves has spoiled me...).

Charm of Misplaced Wrath is absolutely awesome. I was leaning toward picking up an AoE encounter spell at 1st level, but decided to give CoMW a try instead. Oh boy am I glad I did. The fact that you slide the target before dazing them means that it's so easy to set up action denial vs a melee opponent, or really screw over a ranged opponent. You can move a melee dude into the exact spot that screws up any chance of it charging, and for ranged enemies just park them next to a couple of your melee allies and see whether they eat several OAs firing at range or waste their turn shifting away. In my first encounter, I screwed over a Gnoll Gorger by sliding him away from the (badly wounded) Scout and left him dazed 1 square away from the only two enemies he would normally have been able to reach. Plus I had him attack himself, and those guys actually deal a respectable amount of damage! My reservations over picking up a single target power just melted away. Just pick out a hard-hitting enemy and do top-notch control alongside near-striker damage. In the second encounter I had very little luck with it, unfortunately. I missed with the control effect, and the Ogre Juggernaut missed when I had it attack itself. Still, that's a rare circumstance now, especially against Brutes (which have low Will...I think I needed like a 6 to hit it and rolled a 2, plus their attack bonus is actually good now with the new monster design, so combined with a still-low AC they're usually going to hit themselves with the effect).

In the second encounter I used Flaming Sphere, because who doesn't love Flaming Sphere? I realized though, that it requires a very specific clumped set up to work most efficiently, and even though I'd effectively get 2 attacks each round (1 an auto-hit on the monster's turn after I moved the sphere adjacent to it), having to use both my minor and move action on it caused some minor inconveniences (large area, I ended up being out of Arc Lightning range during mop-up). Using Beguiling Strands to clump enemies around the sphere would be a reasonable strategy, but the whole point of the Sphere is to make the Wizard actually deal decent damage for the encounter (and sometimes to force enemies to flee from the sphere's tactically-placed location). Beguiling Strands is so low-damage that it's often not even worth it. Now I'm not saying that Flaming Sphere is a bad spell, because it's really pretty great. It's just that I probably would have preferred my other level 1 Daily, Phantom Chasm. The zone doesn't need to be sustained, and I can effectively use Beguiling Strands to repeatedly knock multiple enemies into it, potentially resulting in some very nice control. Plus the initial attack is much better than FS's. The area is kind of small, but it's enemies only and besides that's what Beguiling Strands + Action Point is for.


I've already discussed the Sentinel here, and as well as in the recaps for my current campaign. Therefore, this shall be brief. I was very much able to use Combined Attack to its full potential several times. The Sentinel won initiative in the second encounter, and the first thing he did was walk up to a minion (hyena) while the wolf veered around (2 Ogre Juggernauts and 4 War Hyenas formed a line in front of 2 Gnoll Far Fangs). The Spirit Companion (from Shaman M/C) walked straight up to one of the Ogres in an attempt to lock it down somewhat (encounter OA is the World Speaker's). The Sentinel used Combined Attack to pop the minion and sent the wolf the rest of the way around the front line to attack the nearest Gnoll. Finally, he ended his turn by using Barkskin on the Scout (the wolf was out of range, and the Scout was most likely to need the extra protection). The Gnoll shifted + shot at the wolf instead of using its encounter AoE on the rest of the party (who hadn't acted yet, and were thus still clumped up).

I'll clarify up front that I'm operating under the house rule assumption (which will hopefully soon become an official errata) that Power Strike and Dual Weapon Attack can be used on the same turn. Otherwise, the Scout would quite frankly be terrible, since it would never be a good idea to choose the encounter power over the striker feature (effectively leaving the build with no encounter powers or dailies). So the Scout led off with his typical first-turn nova. The Sentinel had killed the hyena furthest on the right flank, so the Scout was able to walk around the front line to reach the Gnoll that had shifted away from the wolf (with its speed of 8, the wolf got to the archer with only 1 square to spare. Since the Scouts speed is 7, the only reason he made it was because the Sentinel had killed that minion, which otherwise would have gotten an OA against the Scout). Typical turn 1 involves charging, and between Cunning Stalker and the wolf's aura this attack almost always has CA. Sneak Attack (from Rogue M/C) is used, which in combination with the charge + vanguard weapon, and Power Strike. This results in 3D8 + 2D6 + 12 damage (14 if in Aspect of the Lurking Spider) at level 8. And then the turn is rounded out with a Dual Weapon Attack (which also benefits from Lurking Spider). This brought the Gnoll nearly down to 0 HP, and an Action Point finished him off. While that's not as good as a regular Ranger's nova round, it's not bad considering the Scout's at-will DPR is better.

Aspect of the Cunning Fox could be used whenever the Scout needs to hit and run, and this strategy naturally worked really well in conjunction with the Wizard's encounter powers.


Honestly, there's not much to say here. It's a simple build that works pretty brilliantly. He got Shield Block at level 8, and just happened to start the encounter adjacent to the Wizard. When the Gnoll Far Fangs went before all but the Sentinel, the second one used its encounter AoE on the Knight, Wizard, and Scout (remember the first had attacked the wolf, which had penetrated the front line). The Wizard got hit hard by the attack (the roll was too high for Shield to come into play), but Shield Block was able to soften up the hit. Just in case the party gets ambushed (or if the monsters simply roll higher for Initiative) it's probably a good idea for the squishiest party member to be adjacent to the Knight in the marching order.

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