- Keyleth: Elf Protector Druid (Predator)
- Fen: LT Shifter Berserker (Temperate)
- Albanon: Eladrin Warlock|Swordmage (S-K|Assault)
- Bharash: Dragonborn Warlord (Bravura)
Calling the Fight
My second playtest showed very well why this is important. The party had swiftly dispatched 2 level 7 Dragonborn Mercenaries (Skirmishers), and shortly after that the Dragonborn Soldier (level 8). All that remained was the Legion Champion (level 8 Elite), who was still unscathed. Bharash went down, and shortly after that the party bloodied their foe. Bharash eventually failed all 3 death saves, and Keyleth failed 2 heal checks to revive him (given that it's a DC 10 and she has a +7 modifier, this was unexpected. She rolled a "2" twice). So there was a man down (the leader, no less) and the remaining enemy was now in pretty bad shape. Still, I pressed on. Fen had started mop-up with almost full health and all of his THP from Berserk Vitality. Well, a few double attacks later and he was badly bloodied, and a round after that he was well below his negative bloodied value. In hindsight he should have fallen back and let Albanon (who wasn't hit the entire encounter) tank. He and Keyleth could have dispatched the Champion pretty quickly (Keyleth had only been hit once during the encounter, though she had also lost a surge when her Giant Toad was destroyed).
Now let's think about this scenario. The Legion Champion is an intelligent enemy who presumably has a sense of self-preservation. The party has seen how hard his double attacks hit. By mop-up the Champion knows he cannot possibly win, even if he can take out a PC or two as his final act. Still, he'd probably much rather live to see another day. With Bharash down, the best option for the party would be to let the Champion escape and tend to their comrade's wounds. Heck, even if the DM asks for a surge expenditure to "call the fight," it's better in the long run than possibly dying. Combat is dangerous. The party started this encounter with guns blazing, and had it well under control until the string of bad luck in the mop-up phase.
Bharash the Bravura Warlord
Ok, so this build has been around for a good long while, but it's new to me so I'll say a few quick things. First of all, Bravura Presence has got to be the best option for Warlords by far. If an ally is going to spend an AP, that usually means it's a nova round. What better than to get an extra attack? Though it didn't quite work out this way, Albanon could have conceivably used Fey Step (+Eladrin Swordmage Advance), Standard, AP, and the free attack to use Eldritch Strike 4 times in a single turn. As it turned out, he killed the only foe in range with his standard, so his AP was used later for a 3 attack turn. Fen opened the encounter with Batter Down, AP Run Down, free MBA, hitting with all 3.
The problem I've been having with this guy is that his immediate actions tend to be difficult to use. He has two (Vengeance is Mine and Inspiring Reaction). The vast majority of the time when I'd really like to use one of these I can't because it's either my turn (provoking OAs or granting attacks with Brash Assault) or an attack just knocked me unconscious. In this most recent encounter I did use Vengeance is Mine, but both attacks missed. Later that round I wanted to use Inspiring Reaction, but since I'd already used my IA I couldn't. Bummer.
Fen the Berserker
Alright, moving on to some Heroes of the Feywild stuff. Before this encounter with the dragonborn I'd been using Fury too late in the battle, resulting in the THP from Berserk Vitality never being used. This time I used Fury earlier (plus the encounter lasted longer than most), and the THP not only got chewed through, but Fen got knocked past negative bloodied. Go figure. Now that I've seen him in a Fury for more than a couple of rounds, however, I'm getting the sense that Berserkers might be slightly better in defender mode. They still deal top-notch damage for a defender, have a VERY painful punishment, and are simply more durable thanks to the AC boost. If enemies trigger your punishment you'll end up doing more damage than you would in a Fury anyways. This will likely change at level 7, however, when I inevitably pick up Curtain of Steel, and the scales will tip even further at level 13 when Storm of Blades becomes available.
Keyleth the Druid
In the encounter vs the Orcs Nature's Growth proved very useful. I'd been counting on slowing an orc that was charging past me with Grasping Claws, but the attack missed. Once the orc continued his movement, however, I realized that he was 1 square short of reaching his target because he had to move through 2 squares of Nature's Growth! The room happened to be cramped (I was using the cave map from MV2), and in these circumstances it seems like Nature's Growth really shines. It was also useful in the encounter vs the Dragonborn, as I placed my Toad and the zone in front of a Merc and the Legion Champion in round 1, leaving those monsters unable to reach Keyleth or Albanon without charging (the Merc instead went for Bharash, and the Champion attacked the Toad).
Even without an Alfsair Spear for prone shenanigans, Magic Stones proved to be a very good power. The push was moderately useful against one target in the Orc fight, but the real kicker was that I got to attack 3 creatures, critting with the 3rd attack. For my first level encounter power I went with Gust of Wind, which actually simulates what I would be doing with Magic Stones had I gone the polearm route. Assuming you have Grasping Claws, this is probably the best power for action denial at this level. Position yourself 1 square away from whoever you prone, and when they charge past you to get at your allies you can slow them (stopping their movement, since they've moved 2 squares once they provoked) if you hit with your OA. Since the push is an effect you may even get some action denial out of it if you miss. In the Dragonborn encounter I missed with it, and followed the push up with a Camouflage Cloak. The other obvious use would be to push enemies into a pit or off a cliff, if one is available. The last power I'd like to discuss is Wind Wall. You'll only get the full effect situationally (if there's ranged enemies that target AC or Reflex present), but fortunately it's still a solid blaster power (I've been reliably hitting 2-3 targets with it), and in the dragonborn encounter the slide was useful in bringing an enemy within 3 squares of my Toad, which otherwise would not have gotten an Instinctive Action that turn. I still miss Predator's Flurry (which is better for action denial), but Wind Wall definitely gives it some competition.