Defending can be a Two-Person Job - The "Off-Tank"

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The "Off-Tank"

Defenders make an invaluable part of any adventuring party. Many monsters have quite nasty attacks, and when monsters are free to use those attacks to their full effect against a vulnerable controller, striker or leader, an encounter can quickly turn into a defeat for the player characters. Defenders make the whole party's job easier by limiting monsters' ability to do just this, and thus enable their allies to act unhindered.


The prototypical tank defends by balancing their defenses against a punishing mark. This poses a dilemma for the marked foe - do they attack the defender, and thus waste their attacks on the most durable opponent, or do they ignore the mark, attacking who they had planned to attack, but at the cost of a -2 penalty to hit and quite possibly an additional form of punishment, such as a fighter's combat challenge attack?


A good defender thus combines their high defenses with their mark to thwart their enemies' attacks, regardless of the choice their enemy ultimately makes. This is known as the lose/lose dilemma of defending. If a marked enemy attacks the defender, they lose, and if they attack somebody else, they lose. This is an important point worth stressing - if a defender fails to make both horns of the dilemma sufficiently unappealing, then the defender cannot fulfil their role effectively. For example, a level 1 defender with AC 14, 23 hit points, and no defensive tricks to speak of will be crushed by anything they mark, and because they are probably the weakest member of the party anyway, using the mark will have achieved nothing (as it encourages enemies to do what was probably in their own interests anyway!)


It is important to note right from the outset that when I use the term "punishment" I usually mean it in a generic fashion, covering any outcome that is unfavorable for the enemy and thus can be used as a punishment or deterrence for a given course of action. Different defenders have different means of "punishing" enemies for attacking their allies. Fighters, Paladins and Assault Swordmages do it primarily by dealing damage. Shielding Swordmages punish enemies by reducing the damage they deal. Wardens and Ensnaring Swordmages are more likely to punish enemies with forced movement and making them more vulnerable to future attacks. The two key features of punishment are that it is conditional upon the target taking a particular action and that it is undesirable to them and thus gives them a reason not to take that action. 


Because marks from multiple defenders do not stack (they overwrite each other), two defenders usually cannot effectively both "tank" a given enemy at the same time. However, there are a number of ways that a second defender can synergise beautifully with the other party's defender, and the purpose of this guide is to illustrate but a few of the ways that two defenders can work together well.


As are all guides, this is very much a work in progress. As I don't have encyclopaedic knowledge of every class, I'd be eternally grateful of any feedback and suggestions - particularly any interesting second-defender powers or builds that I've neglected to mention. I will have missed most of them while the guide is still new :D



How Can a Second Defender Make Themselves Useful?


Marking additional targets


Most defenders can only effectively mark some enemies in a typical fight versus five opponents. In fact, in such a scenario, few defenders actually want to be ganged up on entirely. This is in part because even for a defender, focus fire can be dangerous. Just as importantly, even if a defender can endure focus fire for any given encounter, such a strategy runs the risk of draining the defender's healing surges quickly. If an adventuring day has to be cut short because the defender has no healing surges while the rest of the party is uninjured, then something has gone wrong. In such a situation, the party benefits by having some attacks directed away from the defender onto other party members.


A second defender helps admirably in this regard. In a typical combat, it is entirely reasonable for two defenders to each mark one or more targets, effectively splitting their enemy's attacks and making the "focus fire on the defender" strategy less viable for enemies. Moreover, it allows the party to draw from the healing surges of at least two of its members, extending the adventuring day.


Note, however, that this strategy is not viable for fights against a smaller number of opponents. Clearly, it is not possible for both defenders to mark a single solo. Against an encounter of two elites and some minions, defenders may also run the risk of stepping on each other's toes, because if one defender is substantially tougher than the other (or tougher against that specific kind of enemy through resistances or otherwise), it may in fact be best for the primary defender to draw fire from both targets.


In this situation, it is very important that the secondary defender is not left standing around with nothing more than a measly longsword attack to contribute to the fight. Thus, off-tanks need to have additional capabilities with which to make themselves useful. Some suggestions for this are given below.


Punishment without marks


Although many good defender-oriented powers are mediated by marking, not all are. This is extremely important for off-tanks, as it allows them to punish a solo for attacking their allies, even if that ally is themselves a defender and has already marked the solo!


Remember how I said that defenders operate via a lose/lose dilemma? Well, mark-less punishment powers allow two defenders to combine their lose-lose dilemmas additively. Allow me to illustrate how this might work, typically. A party including a hammer and board fighter and a greatweapon assault swordmage fight a solo. Both the defenders in question are relatively durable. The fighter marks the solo, while the swordmage gets ready to interrupt the solo's first attack with the Reaper's Challenge level 15 daily power. The solo is now faced with the following options (leaving aside close blast/burst powers for simplicity):


  1. Attack the fighter. This is bad for the solo because the fighter is the most tough member of the party, and the swordmage will unleash her Reaper's Challenge upon the poor critter, thus causing any attacks to deal half damage.

  2. Attack the swordmage. This is bad for the solo because the swordmage, though perhaps not quite as tough as the fighter, is still a defender and is therefore pretty durable. Moreover, the attack will suffer the full effects of the fighter's punishment capabilities - most likely a combat challenge attack and/or a combat superiority-boosted opportunity attack, followed by a -2 on the attack roll.

  3. Attack another party member. This is bad for the solo because although the other party member is likely to be much squishier than the swordmage or fighter, it will be punished twice for its troubles. In this scenario, the solo would cop the reaper's challenge weakening effect, and the -2 penalty and melee basic attack from the fighter.

While a single defender poses their marked targets with a dilemma between two bad options, two defenders working in concert pose their marked targets with a difficult lose/lose/lose scenario -attack one defender, attack the other defender, or attack somebody else. I dub this the off-tank's trilemma. In order to effectively assist your defender ally in tanking a single target, you must make all three options sufficiently unappealing for your target.


Other Tricks in the Off-Tank's Arsenal


 


The figure below illustrates the three horns of the off-tank's trilemma when tanking a solo enemy, along with some of the potential factors that can be used to make each of those three choices unappealing for the target. Defenders should try to make each of the three options equally unappealing where possible. Marks and mark-less punishment are covered in the previous section, and control, positioning, and buffing will be briefly canvassed below.





















Attack me



Attack other defender



Attack rest of party



Other defender's mark



Other defender's high defenses



Other defender's mark



My high defenses



 



 



 



My mark-less punishment abilities



 



Defensive buffs I provide to other defender



 



Control-oriented penalties such as unconditional attack roll penalties



Positioning making me harder to reach ("kiting")



Positioning making other defender harder to reach (blocking)



Positioning making rest of party harder to reach (flanking)


 


Control


Defending is actually a special kind of Controlling, as both roles involve making it difficult for enemies to do what they would otherwise prefer to do. Other than thematic differences, perhaps the defining criterion for defender-status is that defenders tend to operate specifically using the lose/lose dilemma that I've mentioned above. Other controllers tend to pick powers that penalise enemies pretty much regardless of their choices (e.g. by immobilising a melee foe or stunning/dazing enemies outright). In other words, controller powers are usually unconditional of who they attack (though sometimes they are conditional upon movement - see below), while defender powers tend to inflict effects that are dependent upon who the target attacks.


There is no doubt that non-defender controller powers can be very useful for defenders (indeed, all defenders have at least a few controller powers in their class power list). Nevertheless, defenders tend to be tough almost by definition, and therefore it is already a bad decision for opponents to attack them. It is my opinion that because defender powers (of the mark or non-mark variety) tend to have effects that are contingent upon the target attacking somebody other than the defender, defender powers have been designed with slightly more powerful effects and/or durations than other, less contingent effects. Because one horn on the defender's dilemma is already unappealing due to the defender's toughness anyway, defender powers, which make the other horn of the dilemma extremely unfavorable for the target, synergise very well with defenders and thus are often the best choice for a defender character. Do not fall prey to the error of thinking that a character creation choice that discourages enemies from attacking you is an outright bad thing for a defender, however.The point here isn't that control powers are bad, but rather that after a certain point, effort spend discouraging enemies from attacking a defender will be wasted, because beyond that point no enemy in their right mind would target you with an attack anyway.


Non-defender control powers is an extremely broad category. Some control powers operate by providing enemies with non-conditional attack penalties or by punishing enemies whenever they attack anybody, and thus look very similar to defender abilities but actually discourage targets from attacking the defender just as much as they discourage them from attacking their allies. Other controller powers force or punish enemy movement, and these can also be useful for defenders, and will be discussed further below.


Positioning


Positioning is an extremely important tactical consideration for two defenders working in concert. By standing between your defender ally and their mark in a choke-point, you can make them choose between provoking your opportunity attack to reach the other defender, or attacking you and suffering the punishment effect of your ally's mark. By flanking an enemy with your defender ally, you can make it difficult for them to move away from you both without provoking opportunity attacks from one or both of you.


Mobility-enhancing powers, or powers that allow you to push, slide or teleport your foes, are useful for setting up an advantageous position to defend from.


Many character builds adopt a quasi-defender role, where they use a special kind of controller power to punish enemies for moving away or past them rather than directly punishing them for attacking their allies. This tactic is good, and in fact all defenders make some use of it by standing near enemies and threatening them with opportunity attacks. Pursuit Avengers and Polearm Gamblers are two archetypes that focus on punishing the movement of their foes. However, defending by relying solely on punishing an enemy's movement is difficult to achieve reliably. For example, if you have any melee strikers or leaders in the party, they may have to stay away from the enemy you are trying to tank, or else you won't be able to do anything to stop the enemy from attacking them.


I like to call purely positioning-focused defenders "3rd Ed Defenders," not out of any spite for the player or for 3rd Edition (I loved that game!), but out of nostalgia for the days when defenders only had positioning and the goodwill of the DM to encourage enemies to attack them. Since the advent of 4th Edition, however, defenders have so many more tools at their disposal to punish enemies for attacking their allies, and I'd recommend to any of you off-tanks that rely purely on movement and positioning to control your foe to consider adding one or two attack-punishment abilities (such as marks or mark-less punishment powers) to your repertoire. You may find that it synergises wonderfully with you character's other strengths.


Positioning is an interesting element of defending because it can be used to make any of the three choices relatively unfavorable. The key here is to make sure that you use positioning to limit the effectiveness of the option that would have otherwise been favored by your target. Shielding Swordmages and Hospitaler Paladins often use positioning to avoid their enemies, because their marks are so effective (and are effective at a range) and their marked enemies' best option would otherwise have been to attack the defender. Use positioning to even up the disincentive provided to each of the three options.


Buffing


Though generally the domain of a leader, being able to buff your allies is always useful for any build, and could be the backup role for an off-tank to make use of when their defending abilities aren't required.


Used in conjunction with positioning or other tactical considerations, buffing the other defender's defenses can be functionally similar to a mark-less punishment ability. Without careful use of tactics, however, you're probably just going to motivate your enemies to attack your other allies by using this kind of ability.


As illustrated in the diagram above, an off-tank can impede two of a target's three options by dint of their high defenses and by selectively buffing the defenses of their defender ally. In order for the off-defender to contribute meaningfully, however, they need to somehow impede the target's third choice - attacking party members other than the two tanks. As described above, this can be done with tactical positioning such as flanking and threatening with opportunity attacks.


What Not to do as an Off-Tank


Overwriting the Other Guy's Mark


If you are aiming to help another defender, rather than replace them, it is very important that both of you avoid powers and feats that hinder each other's defending. Unfortunately, some of the best marking powers are not particularly selective, and therefore may not always be ideal when working alongside an ally. A few examples below:


Nature's Wrath - UPDATE: Actually, Nature's Wrath has been clarified in the Warden Essentials article in Dragon 379. You can choose to exclude any number of enemies from Nature's Wrath, so wardens aren't screwed for cooperative tanking.


Contagious Challenge - The contagious challenge feat can potentially overwrite an ally's mark. If your Divine Challenge target is adjacent only to a target marked to your ally, you will need to choose whether to attack something else instead or to overwrite your ally's mark on a hit. This may be a particularly difficult choice if it isn't possible for you to otherwise engage your divine challenge target.


Warrior's Challenge (Fighter enc 17), Call of Challenge (Paladin util 2), Majestic Halo (Paladin daily 1) and others - all potentially problematic, if both defenders intend to use marks.


If one defender is confident that they can operate without the use of their mark, or are happy to reapply their mark when necessary, this may not be too much of a problem. Nevertheless, it is a difficulty that a two-defender team must address if they are to work together effectively.


Getting too Competitive


A bit of healthy rivalry between strikers can often be a good thing. Damage-dealing is fairly additive most of the time, and two strong strikers in a party of five is pretty ideal really. Defending isn't necessarily the same. Sometimes, there's only one foe to tank. When two players decide to make defenders that focus purely on being "main-tanks" with no consideration of teamwork, it can lead to one of those defenders being redundant during solo encounters. That extra defender could have been a controller or striker, and nobody likes feeling like a liability.


Thus, it is important that off-tanks take heed of the other roles they can fill, or make sure that they have some mark-less punishment abilities available when there aren't enough tankable foes to go around. Moreover, it is important that off-tanks play it by ear as they level. If you find yourself only using that divine challenge every second encounter, or you find that anything you challenge always attacks you anyway, avoid spending more resources improving it further. Instead, you might want to consider investing in more feats or powers that boost your other capabilities or your durability. If you find that your enemies ignore your marks then you might want to make yourself more punishing. Consider trading that sword and board out for a fullblade so that you can assist in dealing damage. Alternatively, you could enhance your marking capabilities through feats or power choices, or pick up some mark-less punishment powers. This is all advice that single defenders can benefit from - but it applies doubly to off-tanks because it is much easier to overdo it.


In fact, it may be that some of the best duo-defender combos involve two "off-tank" builds working in concert. If they work cooperatively and both choose one or two mark-less punishment abilities, they could be far more effective than a single defender, yet both simultaneously function effectively in a second role. For instance, my half-elf bard/paladin is currently working alongside an eladrin feycharging swordmage. We work pretty well together, but the bard happily covers the leader role, while the swordmage zips around the battlefield making numerous attacks each round with her fullblade.


Off-Tank Build Options


Warpriest - a battle cleric with this paragon path and a few defensive feats qualifies as a fully-fledged defender in their own right at level 16, and with solid leadership capabilities to boot.


Defender geared towards damage - (Battlerager or Greatweapon Fighter, Assault Swordmage, Ardent Paladin) - A defender that focuses on their offensive capabilities can make a solid backup defender, without necessarily sacrificing too much damage-dealing ability relative to a striker.


Pursuit Avenger - Avengers can potentially have the best AC of just about any class, and their Censure of Pursuit enhances their damage against enemies that move away from them. Such a character could potentially work very well with a shielding swordmage by dragging the swordmage's Aegis target away from the rest of the group and punishing them if they try and move back to the swordmage. Unfortunately, Avengers only punish enemy movement rather than attacks, so they are extremely dependent upon positioning in order to function effectively.


Soldier of the Faith - Soldier of the Faith is the best class-specific multiclass feat if you want to become a defender through multiclassing (provided you have at least 13 strength and charisma and ideally keep one of the two high as you level). Unlike the Fighter, Swordmage and Warden multiclass feats, Soldier of the Faith provides an encounter-long mark, complete with punishment mechanic (although there is some debate about whether the punishment component of Divine Challenge functions after the first round of combat, I fall into the camp that believes it "refreshes" every round). Moreover, the mark can be enhanced substantially via numerous feats. Lastly, Paladins have some very enticing mark-less defending powers available through power swap feats.


Furious_Kender's Bardic Defender - a solid bardic defender build using both Soldier of the Faith and Warpriest in order to be able to mark two enemies at once.


Paragon Multiclass Swordmage - This is one of the few times where paragon multiclassing is not an outright trap choice. Paragon multiclassing as a Swordmage opens up the Arcane Aegis feat, which grants the character an Aegis power once per encounter.


Hybrid Defender|Anything - I'm not particularly familiar with the hybrid rules, but this seems like a viable way of making an off-tank whilst still remaining very effective at another role.


ShakaUVM's Sorden Warchester, hybrid Warden/Sorcerer - Try this build out if you like making your DM cry when they miss your striker/defender with a 17.


Upho's Royal Guard Defenders - Two hybrids designed to complement each other - the Royal Pain Guard, a Paladin/Sorcerer; along with the Crimson Chain Guard, a Swordmage/Warlock. Each blocks the other's mark and makes it difficult for the mark to reach the defender that marked them. Fun!


Polearm Gamblers - whether you be a Barbarian, a Fighter, or some other kind of polearm user, polearm gamblers can make for an interesting and fun fusion of defending, controlling, and striking. Polearm gamblers use positioning and marks to encourage enemies to approach or move past them and then make opportunity attacks (using Polearm Gamble) that can push or slide (e.g. via Heavy Blade Opportunity and Pressing Strike/Footwork Lure or Eldritch Strike) and potentially knock the target prone or halt their movement (via polearm momentum and combat superiority, respectively).


Nova/Temp Defender - Just about any build can make themselves very useful as a defender by taking feats/powers that boost their defenses and then picking one or two powers, feats or paragon paths that give short duration, limited use marks. Characters that mark primarily with the Student of the Sword or Defender of the Wild feats fall into this category. Often this type of build can function very well as a defender for a round or two every combat, and they do not necessarily need to sacrifice a lot in their primary role, be it striker, controller, or leader to do so.


ShakaUVM's Dragon Sorcerer - an example of a moderate to high defenses sorcerer build that is actually being used in play, which doesn't sacrifice its ability to deal striker damage in order to be a multi-marking defender one round per encounter.

Commentary on Classes, Powers and Feats


This section is largely a work in progress, but I'll try and write a short commentary on each class' potential eventually. Please assist me by suggesting any important off-tank stuff I've missed and I'll try and include it as soon as I have time!


I've made a point of including every mark-less punishment ability that I can find in each class entry.


I've omitted:


  • Marking powers because they are covered amply by other guides and because although they are good for any tank, two tanks cannot both mark the same target and thus it is adviseable for off-tanks to take a close-look at mark-less punishing abilities. 

  • Powers that punish enemies for making any attack, or provide defense bonuses to your allies and yourself, as they do not have any particularly interesting synergy with a defender's toughness, so I've saved myself the space!

  • Purely self-defensive powers. Although potentially very useful, I figured that the worth of such powers was relatively self-evident. Moreover, I think that it is easier to make a character tough than it is to make them sticky (usually all it requires is wise ability score allocation and a few feats), so I've focused on powers that make off-tanks stickier here.

Artificer


Runes of the Shadow Tendrils (Daily 29, EPG): If you cast this on the other defender and can use positioning (e.g. flanking and opportunity attacks) to prevent the one or more of the targets from attacking anybody other than yourself or the other defender, then this will function similarly to Reaper's Challenge.


Avenger


Merciless Nemesis (Avenger daily 29, DP19): Used by a Pursuit Avenger against the target of a defender's mark, this power potentially forces your enemy to either attack your high defenses and suffer the ill effects of your defender buddy's mark, or shift and charge somebody else and suck up your censure of pursuit damage the next round.


Bard


Bards make great leaders but also bring a number of things to the table in building an off-tank. Perhaps most importantly, Bards can multiclass into any number of classes through their multiclass versatility class feature. Bards also have strong buffing, positioning and controlling capabilities. They have middling hit points and surges along with a modest but serviceable array of initial proficiency feats. For three feats a bard can be toting full plate, a heavy shield, and a songblade longsword. With toughness thrown in, a valorous bard is a tough enough cookie to get the job done.


Bards naturally synergise with the paladin class, which is one of the better defender classes to multiclass into. Multiclassing into bard can bring a daily heal and the potential to pick up some useful control or leader powers, but is unlikely to boost an off-tank's tanking capabilities directly.


War Song Strike (at-will, PH2 69) - This power is secretly an off-defender power. It allows you to keep everybody apart from yourself topped right up with temporary hit points, thus penalising enemies for attacking those targets. On the other hand, there are perhaps better bardic at-wills, even if they aren't particularly off-tank oriented, such as Guiding Strike and Vicious Mockery.


Shout of Triumph (encounter 1, PH2 69) - This is just one example of the numerous ally-friendly forced movement powers that bards have at their disposal. Powers like this can make a huge difference when used strategically with your own, or another defender's mark.


Chord of Resilience (utility 6, AP 9) - This performs very similarly to a once per encounter Aegis of Shielding during lower levels, but does not require you to mark the target before you can use it. You will get an opportunity to use this power every encounter - do not underestimate that fact about it. However, it does not scale particularly well and might not be worth keeping beyond about mid-paragon tier.


Scorpion's Claw Strike (encounter 7, PH2 72) - Quite a good power for an off-tank as it makes attacking your defender ally unpalatable, whilst simultaneously allowing you to put that ally in a flanking position so that it is difficult for your enemy to shift and charge away to anybody but you or him. That is, of course, assuming that you don't have any other melee allies nearby!


Illusory Erasure (utility 10, PH2 72) - This power functions very similarly to Scorpion's Claw Strike except that the slide is perhaps a little more flexible and invisibility effectively grants a +5 to all defenses against most attacks. Lastly, it's a minor action and the effect isn't reliant upon hitting - yay!


Mocking Epigram (daily 19, AP 14)- A pretty decent mark-less punishment ability. On the plus side, it can really hurt enemies that make multiple attack rolls per round (provided that there are other enemies around for them to hit). It also really hurts enemies whose attacks impose status effects, as those are transfered by the power too! On the more negative side, the power is save ends. Therefore, it is probably best to use this one on normal or elite artillery/controllers, because it might not last long versus a solo.


Fighter


Fighters make excellent defenders in general, and the class has plenty in it of worth to an off-tank build. Starting off with fighter as the base class gives you very good hit points, surges, and proficiencies, meaning that you will need to spend relatively few feats on durability. Combat Superiority buffs your opportunity attacks significantly, which is great for an off-tank because opportunity attacks can come into play even against enemies marked by your ally. Combat Challenge is a strong marking mechanic, and has the added convenience of being optional - you don't have to overwrite your ally's mark whenever you hit their target! Unfortunately, the punishment mechanic is only effective against adjacent targets so it is a bit more difficult for fighters to have fun with advanced kiting tactics. Not to worry though; different strokes for different folks.


Fighter also makes a very good class to muticlass into. It has a strong selection of feats, some of which are almost obligatory for certain builds. If you have a decent strength score, seriously consider multiclassing fighter for power swaps. In fact, some of the fighter dailies are stances and are not dependent upon strength, so are worth taking a look at regardless.


Brash Strike (at-will, MP 7) - Though perhaps not strictly speaking a defender-oriented power, it is nevertheless a pretty good choice for an off-defender as the cost you pay for striker-level damage (granting combat advantage) is somewhat mitigated by your ally's mark and your very high defenses.


Footwork Lure (at-will, MP 7) - One of a few forced movement at-will powers that can be a good mainstay for a polearm gambler.


Dual Strike (at-will, MP 7, but check errata) - A great way for single-classed/hybrid Fighters to mark two foes at a time. The utility of this power will depend somewhat upon the arrangement you have with the other tank - how are you divvying up marking rights? It is good damage too.


Tide of Iron (at-will, PH 77) - A solid positioning power.


Hounding Longarm (daily 5, MP11) - this power provides an encounter-long mark-less punishment effect against a single foe that is similar to combat challenge but grants a shift in addition to the melee basic attack. That extra shift is key, because it largely negates the all-too-common shift+charge strategy that your opponents will often use against you. The only limitation is that you must be using a reach weapon to use this power. I knew it sounded too good to be true!


Pinning Smash (daily 5, MP 11) - If the other defender is able to tank at a range, hit a melee enemy they've marked with this power and tell all your allies to stay out of reach. Your foe won't be able to attack anybody but you, and will therefore suffer the full effects of your ally's mark.


Vigilant Protector (util 6, MP 12) - A stance that buffs the AC and Reflex of adjacent allies but reduces your own. If you're a dragonborn, have a few melee allies, and/or intend to keep the other defender close, this might be worth considering at least.


Savage Parry (encounter 7, MP 12) - A decent interrupt that deals a modicum of damage, gives you some temporary hit points, and reduces the damage of the triggering attack. It's arguable whether this is really better than a combat challenge melee basic attack, but this power is useable even when you haven't marked the target.


Phalanx Leader (utility 10, PH Heroes 1) - A neat little encounter buff. Keep in mind that it is dependent upon positioning and that the AC bonus is a shield bonus.


Stalwart Guard (utility 10, PH 81) - a daily stance comparable to Phalanx leader, with comparable strengths and limitations. Phalanx leader may be slightly better if used judiciously.


Defender's Gambit (daily 15, MP 16) - Something like this might be worth considering as an off-tank. If the target is marked by your ally, they may have a hard time deciding whether to take that free attack or not.


Interposing Shield (utility 16, PH 82) - Good for when you're off-tanking without using your mark, but like all fighter shield powers it has a range of 1.


Tap and Counterstrike (encounter 17, MP 17) - A pretty decent mark-less punishment power.


Strike of the Watchful Guard (Fighter daily 19, PH84) - grants you an encounter-long mark-less version of combat challenge against the target. As icing on the cake, the melee basic attack it grants is a free action rather than an immediate interrupt. This power can therefore trigger multiple times per turn.


Turnabout Riposte (encounter 23, MP 20) - A great mark-less punishment power, but less compelling if you generally have targets marked because it uses your immediate action.


Battle Awareness (class-specific multiclass feat, MP149) - Allows you to interrupt an enemy's attack against one of your allies once per encounter, even if the ally had marked that enemy. Combine it with the Eldritch strike power or the Mark of Storm feat combined with a lightning weapon. In such cases, the feat power can be used to invalidate an enemy's attack entirely.


Battle Acumen (paragon multiclass feat, MP 149) - A really nice feat. Unfortunately, you have to paragon multiclass to get it. It's probably not role-defining enough to be worth making such a high sacrifice for, except perhaps if you are a half-elf and want to cherry-pick the best powers from each class. For most other classes it might just be worth it to make a (hybrid) fighter instead.


Fey Charge (paragon feat, MP 143) - I mention this feat because its existence makes MC Fighter an absolute must-have for any Eladrin Assault Swordmage (which itself is an important off-tanking build).


Polearm Momentum (heroic feat, MP 138) - This feat is great for polearm gamblers of any class, making MC fighter a great choice for them.


Phalanx Warrior (paragon feat, MP 144) - Flavor-wise, perfect for an off-tank build. However, there are two limitations with this one you have to consider. First, it's a shield bonus, so it doesn't work if your ally already has a shield. Secondly, the positioning limitation is rather severe. Thus, the worthiness of this feat depends upon your party make-up and battle plan.


Paladin


Since the release of Divine Power, paladins make sweet tanks. They have more base healing surges than any other class, good hit points, plate and heavy shield proficiency, and a marking/punishment mechanic that can be maintained at a range if you have a ranged attack. Other than being ranged, Divine Challenge is also unique in that the punishment part of the power costs no action. Thus, paladins have a surplus of immediate actions with which to do whatever they like. Paladins have a few absolute stand-out powers for off-tanking, described below.


Paladin is a great class to multiclass into in order to make your character more sticky. Soldier of the Faith, the class specific multiclass feat, gives you a full use of divine challenge once per encounter, which combines a mark and a punishment mechanic. It is also possible for a multiclass paladin to pick up feats or powers that utilise the Divine Sanction effect in order to gain additional marking capabilities.


Ardent Strike (at-will, DP 83) - grants you a 1[W] attack that subjects your target to divine sanction (but only on a hit), that can also be used on a charge. May allow certain builds to gain access to a mark that they otherwise couldn't have, but if you have divine challenge you might find that you're often using your standard action to attack the target you've marked anyway, and so might not get quite as much out of the power as you might expect.


Forbidding Strike (at-will, Divine Heroes 2) - this is one of the few at-wills in the game that is ideally used by an off-tank. Provided that you and the other defender are able to flank and sequester your chosen foe away from any other allies, you can provide a mark-less lose/lose dilemma to your enemy every round that you hit with this power. Not bad at all.


Virtuous Strike (at-will, DP 83) - A good way for paladins (or half-elves) that don't use strength for their powers to gain a charisma-based MBA. It does radiant damage, which can be great depending on your DM's preferences, and gives a bonus to saves (which is ok, I guess). Eldritch Strike may be better, so if you are a half-elf you may want to consider taking that one instead.


Shielding Smite (encounter 1, PH 92) - Buffs one ally's AC. Combined with careful positioning and used to buff your ally that has marked the target, can be useful for an off-tank.


Call of Challenge (utility 2, DP 85) - A great way to mark a whole bunch of foes. You may annoy the other defender if you overwrite their mark though!


Avenging Smite (encounter 3, DP 85) - A 2[W] attack to the back of the head might teach your foe not to turn its back on you! Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what the immobilize effect is supposed to accomplish, as it may expire before the target gets another opportunity to move anyway. Still, the immobilize might be occasionally useful. Moreover, it is mark-less punishment and can stack with Divine Challenge damage.


Hold Fast (encounter 3, DP 85) - A strike similar to Avenging Smite which is used as a standard action or in place of a basic attack. The immobilize can be used to halt enemies' movement with an opportunity attack.


Benign Trasposition (encounter 7, PH 94) - A pair of defenders with ranged marks could use this power to switch places with each other, potentially blocking enemies' access to the PC that marked them.


Ray of Reprisal (daily 9, DP 88) - A once-off mark-less punishment. The effect isn't bad although you may feel that it doesn't do quite enough for a daily.


Righteous Indignation (utility 10, DP 88) - A decent enough little buff that allows you to punish an enemy for attacking your ally without having marked them beforehand. It feels a little so-so for a daily though!


Eye for an Eye (encounter 13, DP 89) - A nice ranged, mark-less once-off punishment in response to an enemy attacking one of your allies. A pity that it isn't an interrupt, but it is still pretty nice.


Censuring Radiance (encounter 23, DP92) - a pretty good option. A melee [W] attack targeting fort and weakens the target for any attacks that do not include you as a target.


Demand Respect (encounter 23, DP92) - The big brother of Price of Cowardice and Eye for an Eye, this mark-less punishment power allows an off-tank to blind, knock prone, and deal radiant damage to an enemy as an interrupt in response to their attack against an ally. As it is an interrupt, this will result in a -7 attack penalty for the triggering attack.


Martyr's Smite (encounter 23): Martyr's Strike allows you to redirect damage the target deals back to yourself. Used indiscriminately, this power isn't particularly great, but saved for a key moment (such as when the other defender is low in health and may be dropped during the next round) it might be useful. Note however, that this power is overshadowed by not one, but three other off-tanking paladin encounter 23 powers - Censuring Radiance, Demand Respect and Sublime Transposition.


Sublime Transposition (encounter 23) - This power gives you some pretty good repositioning capabilities, buffs the other defender's defenses, and allows you to follow up with an attack. Not a bad power for an off-tank build at all, though Demand Respect is probably better unless you are immediate action starved.


Discipline the Unruly (daily 25, DP93) - This power gives you a fantastic mark-less punishment ability that applies to any enemy within 5 squares of you! It is a sustain minor, which can be a pain, but it is nevertheless a very good choice for an off-tank.


Sorcerer


 


Swordmage


Most swordmages function by using their encounter-long Aegis power on an enemy and then using both toughness and positioning to make themselves hard to reach. This tactic is expandable to two swordmages (or a swordmage and a paladin), where each defender blocks the other defender's mark, thus allowing both defenders to kite their respective marks.


Multiclassing into swordmage will only make you a more sticky if you are willing to paragon multiclass. Paragon multiclass swordmages can spend a feat to gain a once per encounter use of any one Aegis, which is fairly nice. It may be a viable option for tactical warlords.



Dimensional Warp (utility 2) - with a paltry minor action, this ability can dramatically alter the course of a battle. Both defenders should mark their targets, and then the swordmage can use dimensional warp. Ideally, this will make both defenders difficult to reach by their marked foes, thus amplifying the lose-lose scenario that the enemies are faced with.


Dimensional Vortex (encounter 3, AP53) - What a great power for an off-tank. Provided you hit, you completely nullify an enemy's attack and can even make them take a swipe at another enemy. Save it for rounds in which you're unlikely to make Aegis interrupts.


Incendiary Sword (encounter 3, Dragon367) - Not a bad way to offtank. if you work alongside a character with an area of effect mark (e.g. Call of Challenge), it could be pretty nice. Five damage isn't a huge disincentive, though.


Energy Theft (daily 5, AP54) - Against a foe that focuses on a particular element, this may be a decent off-tank power.


Enervating Slash (daily 5, AP55) - Not bad at all, apart from the (save ends) part!


Dazing Rebuke (encounter 7, AP55) - This one is not all that good. The enemy has already made at least one attack on their turn when the daze kicks in, so unless they were going to make additional attacks (or opportunity attacks), you probably won't achieve a whole lot with this.


Arcane Deflection (daily 9, AP56) - This power uses an immediate action, so does not work well in conjunction with your Aegis. However, if everything is already marked by the other defender, it becomes very good. Just make sure that all your allies remain adjacent to you or otherwise out of reach!


Silverlight Strike (encounter AP58) - Very nice. Your target grants CA to all your allies, and gains a -5 penalty to hit on all attack rolls vs. them! Guess who it'll want to attack?


Dimensional Slash (encounter FRPG13) - Has some interesting possibilities. Have your ally mark the target and then whisk it away into a corner with you.


Reaper's Challenge (Swordmage daily 15, dragon372) - This lovely daily allows you to weaken an enemy as an immediate interrupt when they attack an ally - even if that ally has marked the opponent. Even better, it slaps on an encounter-long mark-less punishment power - if the target makes an attack not including you, it is weakened until the end of its next turn.


Eldritch Chains (daily 15, AP58) - Not bad. Very dependent upon the positioning of your allies.


Surprising Transposition (encounter 17, AP59) - Very similar to Dimensional Vortex.  In other words, very nice.


Ward of Scales (daily 19, AP60) - A decent daily for an off-tank. Versus a solo, you can use it on your defender buddy to make things interesting. With flanking and careful positioning, the solo may have to decide between attacking you and the defender that has marked it.


Sword Duel (daily 25, AP62) - Quite a decent off-tanking power. 10 damage is not huge at level 25, however.


Sword Chaser Assault (encounter 27, AP63) - Pretty decent mark-less punishment power overall.



Warlord


A Rock and a Hard Place (Warlord daily 5, MP106) - this power was outright designed for use by an off-tank. Provided that you can use positioning (such as flanking) to make it difficult for the target from being able to shift and attack/charge one of your other allies, your enemy will be faced with a lose/lose scenario (as the power's name implies).


Denying Smite (Warlord encounter 13) - If you flank an enemy with an ally that has marked it, using this power may make it difficult for your target to attack anybody but you (unless it has above-baseline mobility). This will hopefully lead to the target attacking your high defenses and copping the brunt of your ally's mark and punishment mechanic.


Exhorted Counterattack (Warlord daily 19): Not only does your target's attack against your defender ally trigger a heal on that ally, but your ally is given an opportunity to retaliate. Not bad, although it is a once-off - something like Reaper's Challenge may be better because of its duration.


Defy Death (Warlord daily 29): An effective once-off punishment mechanic. For an off-tank character, it will be useful against solos (where the other defender has the target marked) but even more useful against a group of enemies, as it could be used to move away from a target you have marked as well, which could potentially make things very hard on your mark during their next turn. 


Multiclass-Only Classes


Noble Indoctrination (Multiclass path, Channel Divinity:Bahamut article, dragon 378) - This multiclass path provides a feat power called Righteous Judgment, which I find hard recommending using over an at-will, but more importantly, it opens up some fairly nifty power swaps. Hand of Justice is a rather good encounter power that damages an enemy for attacking an ally, and allows the ally to spend a healing surge. It's an area attack so will provoke opportunity attacks though. Righteous Savior is a pretty good utility power, bolstering an enemy's defenses and granting you movement when as an interrupt when an ally is hit by an attack. However, these options will use up your one multiclass choice, which may not be a good idea if you are not already a defender (or able to take multiple class-specific multiclass feats for whatever reason).


Platinum Revelation (Multiclass path, CD:Bahamut article, dragon 378) - a more melee-oriented alternative to Noble's Indoctrination. The power granted by the initial feat is OK (comparable to the paladin's enfeebling strike at-will) until epic tier, where it falls behind slightly due to lack of scaling damage (and less reliance upon at-will powers). Dragon's Rebuke is a melee strike that allows you to push an enemy if they then attack your allies, but only as a reaction (so it can only really foil the second and consecutive attacks of multiattack powers). Righteous Intolerance and Zealous Fury, the daily attack powers and utilities, grant you free movement and your allies healing when your enemies attack them. All-in-all, a fairly good multiclass path for an off-tank.  


Paragon Paths


Half-elf Emissary (Bard PP) - both the level 11 action point feature and the level 20 daily give allies a bonus to defenses. This punishes enemies for attacking your allies in a similar manner to a mark, but without actually applying a mark. It is, on the whole, a leader paragon path, but its applications for a leader/off-defender are worth mentioning.


Faithful Shield (Paladin PP) - This path is well suited to an off-defender as every feature and power grants bonuses to AC to either allies or yourself and allies. Some of the features are a bit annoying though - for instance, the +2 bonus to defenses from Sheltering Hands only lasts until the start of the target's next turn, so you might want to delay until right after your ally in order to put it to good use. Defensive Presence is good if your defender buddy is a dwarf or if you have the Swift Recovery skill power.


General Feats


Psychic Lock (Paragon feat, PH205) - this controller feat deserves a mention primarily because it is so good. When the attack penalty is stacked with your own or your wingman's mark, it becomes quite nasty. Have all your attacks apply this penalty with a Githyanki Silver Sword or pick up an at-will such as Vicious Mockery, Illusory Ambush, or Eyebite in order to make use of this.

Warlords have some nice offtank abilities too, and can potentially have fairly high ACs. Rock And A Hard Place, for example.

The world is a mess, I just need to... rule it.

Thanks for that Chimera - I hadn't really looked closely at the power selection for Warlords. I had a quick look and they definitely have some powers with great potential - I've added a few of the choicest powers into the guide. Tell me if you think I've missed any important bits!


So far, I've avoided adding classes such as warlord, bard or cleric into the "2nd defender builds" section, seeing as those classes don't by themselves have a reliable marking mechanic. Although warlords and clerics do have a few encounter powers that mark at their disposal, I'm trying to draw a line between classes that have just one or two encounter powers that mark, and classes that can mark for at least a few rounds and can back up that mark with a punishment mechanic of their own.


That said, I think that just about any of the leader classes could make a solid foundation for an off-tank build, provided that you gave them feat and power choices to match and perhaps multiclassed appropriately (e.g. Soldier of the Faith or PMC Swordmage could really work will with a cha/int warlord respectively!).

Might I also mention the Barbarian (rageblood for more tanking and thaneborn for the buffs and debuffs). they have HP like most defenders (better then some if you go rageblood) plus they have some good attacks and rages that can work like a "mark ability" such as Great Shout and Terrors Cry which impose an attack penalty, plus I'm sure that once Primal power comes out, much more defenderish tech will be included. plus it gets the wonderful at-will called pressing strike that is well synergised with Polearm gamble, HBO, plus other feats such as polearm momentum and spear push to allow a battlefield repositioning machine by paragon. couple that with the barbarians mobility and you have a machine to get you where you need to be to defend your party when nessasary.


Hope that makes sense.


also you seem to have forgotten to mention the shielding swordmages aegis of shielding under abilities that reduce an ememies attacks, thought you might want to include that.


-Dgill

I think this is a great idea for a guide. I've often wondered how to best optimize two or more defenders in a group.


The Fighter daily powers "Hounding Longarm" and "Strike of the Watchful Guard" look like they're perfect for off-tanking a solo or a smaller number of enemies.

Channel Divinity: Bahamut has some good multiclass powers for off tanks. Like the encounter power Hand of Justice, which as an immediate reaction punishes an enemy within 10 squares who hits an ally and lets that ally spend a healing surge. And the utilities Righteous Savior and Zealous Fury. Actually all the multiclass power swaps and feats in the article are pretty off-tanky.

Might I also mention the Barbarian...

Yes, Barbarians do have defender-level hit points. However, most barbarians actually have rather low defenses. Some Barbarian abilities do look quite good in a controllerish kind of way (e.g. forcing movement, giving penalties to attacks) but they don't seem to have much that specifically penalises the target for attacking somebody other than the Barbarian. Perhaps a barbarian could work with some multiclassing or hybridisation, but I don't see much in the class (other than high hit points) that really recommends it for off-tanking.

the wonderful at-will called pressing strike that is well synergised with Polearm gamble, HBO, plus other feats such as polearm momentum and spear push

Actually, that's one thing I've forgotten to make a mention of so far - the polearm gamble spec. I'll make sure I mention it, cheers!

also you seem to have forgotten to mention the shielding swordmages aegis of shielding under abilities that reduce an ememies attacks, thought you might want to include that.

Ah - shielding swordmages do make excellent defenders, but I'll probably classify them as a "main-tank" spec, rather than an "off-tank" spec, unlike, say, assault swordmages, who tend to put a bit more of their resources into damage-dealing and thus make better backup tanks.

The Fighter daily powers "Hounding Longarm" and "Strike of the Watchful Guard" look like they're perfect for off-tanking a solo or a smaller number of enemies.

Those are both really close to what I had in mind. I'll make sure to include them!

Thanks for the suggestions, both of you.

Thanks Quanta - I've included mention of those two multiclass paths in the guide. Hmm, it's getting pretty cluttered - is there a way to tidy this up without sblocks?

I'm playing an off-tank right now as a CON-lock.  Started as a Hexforged, but really has morphed quite a bit.


I don't mark - and honestly that has been more helpful than hurtful.  Our fighter likes to mark things up like crazy and someone else's mark just gets in the way.


Incidentially, that's how I play it ... I get in the way.  Loading up on feats like Grim Promise, Psychic Lock (and eventually Warding Curse) work like a general-purpose dampening on enemy attacks.  Then I place myself into position where I need to block the mage and sorcerer from harm.  Melee Training (CON) just got trained in (RIP Reaper's Touch), so I can hit decently with the Pact Blade.


I went with the Pact Blade because as the in-the-way off-tank, I'm drawing fire.  My power selection is primarily focused on (a) powers that are descriminating and won't hurt the party (b) things that give me a "you don't want to hit me" capability; equipment is similar (Pact Blade).  As it works out, I end up with a number of key individual deterrants (hit me and you'll take damage, if I take damage you take damage) to set up our opponents to make similar decisions as if they were marked.


Then I get in their way and dare them to hit me.


 


So far, it's amusing and it seems to work.

A half-orc or eladrin or other dex-based race with the following base stats works well for Barbarians:
Str 16, Dex 14, Con or Cha of 13, Wis 14 - you advance Str/Dex, giving you top-tier AC and you qualify for all the pole-arm feats by paragon. Half-orc is great for the 18 Str, Eladrin for all the charge feats, Elf or Shifter can work reasonably well for the boost to Wisdom(and you can swap Str/Dex for the Str/Wis shifter) - with Windrise Ports and the 13 Cha, you can have Fighter(Battle Awareness) and Paladin(Soldier of Faith)


Brash Strike is an effective do damage power when your defender friend has them marked.


Primary strong mark tanks work really well with an off-tank that functions with mark-less attacks. Daunting Challenge + Group Defense(Half-Elf Fighter -> Paladin)


Psychic Lock - good feat for mark-less attacks, especially if you have some way of combining it with a penalty to hit power. Githyanki Silver Swords as an example.


White Lotus Hindrance - prevents shifts, forcing OAs if they move to attack someone else. Can be an interesting combo with a ranged Paladin who does divine challenge and a regular melee attacker who does this White Lotus Hindrance - requires an arcane melee at-will, though.


I'm playing an off-tank right now as a CON-lock.  Started as a Hexforged, but really has morphed quite a bit.


I don't mark - and honestly that has been more helpful than hurtful.  Our fighter likes to mark things up like crazy and someone else's mark just gets in the way.


Incidentially, that's how I play it ... I get in the way.  Loading up on feats like Grim Promise, Psychic Lock (and eventually Warding Curse) work like a general-purpose dampening on enemy attacks.  Then I place myself into position where I need to block the mage and sorcerer from harm.  Melee Training (CON) just got trained in (RIP Reaper's Touch), so I can hit decently with the Pact Blade.


Nice.


A half-orc or eladrin or other dex-based race with the following base stats works well for Barbarians:
Str 16, Dex 14, Con or Cha of 13, Wis 14 - you advance Str/Dex, giving you top-tier AC and you qualify for all the pole-arm feats by paragon. Half-orc is great for the 18 Str, Eladrin for all the charge feats, Elf or Shifter can work reasonably well for the boost to Wisdom(and you can swap Str/Dex for the Str/Wis shifter) - with Windrise Ports and the 13 Cha, you can have Fighter(Battle Awareness) and Paladin(Soldier of Faith)


Primary strong mark tanks work really well with an off-tank that functions with mark-less attacks. Daunting Challenge + Group Defense(Half-Elf Fighter -> Paladin)


Psychic Lock - good feat for mark-less attacks, especially if you have some way of combining it with a penalty to hit power. Githyanki Silver Swords as an example.


White Lotus Hindrance - prevents shifts, forcing OAs if they move to attack someone else. Can be an interesting combo with a ranged Paladin who does divine challenge and a regular melee attacker who does this White Lotus Hindrance - requires an arcane melee at-will, though.




Cheers for the suggestions guys!


Both of you refer to powers and feats such as Psychic Lock which provide a general attack-penalty. I have no doubt that it is an awesome feat (especially combined with a Githyanki Silver Weapon), and it really does boost the effectiveness of the primary defender's mark (a -2 to hit for not attacking the defender is something many enemies will be willing to swallow occasionally - but when they already have a -4 from another source, that -2 can reduce their chance to hit into the "negligible" range). However, I'm not totally sure I'd classify it as a "mark-less defending" ability; I'd probably class Psychic Lock as a controller power if anything.


My reasoning is that broad to hit penalties are neutral with regards to who the enemy attacks, and thus don't really encourage them to attack the attacker back. They don't really function similarly to a mark, and crucially, they don't capitalise on the off-tank's high defenses. That's not to say they aren't awesome though, and they synergise excellently with marks. Moreover, by my admittedly strict criterion there aren't many pure defender at-wills in the game anyway (except perhaps Ardent Strike, Forbidding Strike and powers that can be used for opportunity attacks such as Virtuous and Eldritch strike) and off-tanks need to use something, so I should probably make mention of what powers, beyond those that I just mentioned, are good for an off-tank kind of build. Given that there aren't many pure defending at-wills, Brash Strike and Psychic Lock/a psychic power seem like great choices, actually.


The guide is starting to get a little cluttered with its current layout. I'm surprised with how many suitable powers there are out there, to be honest! Therefore, I'm thinking I might shift all the powers (and feats) into a section of their own, perhaps split up according to class, usage (at-will, encounter, daily attack and utility). Anybody have any suggestions about the most effective/readable layout?

I notice that the warlord section fails to note break the tempo which seems like a paradigmatic power for an off-tank warlord.


Also of note, the pathfinder (PHB ranger paragon path) level 11 encounter and level 20 daily powers.

I somehow managed to play two "off-tank" characters.


The first is a dwarf beastmaster ranger. With his good CON, an urgrosh, boots of the fencing master and chainmail make him fairly durable, and disruptive strike and battle awareness really punish enemies for attacking.


The beast also really helps you double as a controling defender. You can use it to seal or provide flanks, but there are three things that really shine are:


  • It effectively doubles your hit points

  • Its AoO's are immediate actions so you can take two on your turn

  • Beast Protector allows you to smack anyone who attacks it as an opportunity action (e.g. a quasi-mark)

  • Distracting Companion gives your quarry -2 to attack you and your beast when you hit it (another quasi-mark)

  • Serpentine Dodge can make your AC and Reflex nigh-ridiculous.

This Dwarf has stood tough in several LFR mods where we had no other defender.


My second "off-tank" is a whip-wielding drow tempest fighter. The build is a low-damage high and control, although the defenses aren't great. Cloud of Darkness is an excellent power for multi-mark fighters, and darkfire, while not the most accurate, is a minor action mark from range. The basic goal is to either lock down as many opponents as possible, allowing the rest of the party to focus on one enemy.


My favorite combo with these two powers is: Move into position, Cloud of Darkness, Come and Get It, Action Point, Bloodspike Sweep. You now have all enemies in a burst 3 blind, marked, and prone. The three eladrin I pulled this on were very upset they could not teleport away.


The whip allows you to do two silly things:


  1. Hand out -2's to hit in addition to a mark

  2. Attack from over your striker or main tanks head

In close-quarters fighting, this allows you to safely make your main tank almost unhittable.


The only downside to this second build is if you play with a lot of pick-up groups. You rely on skillful positioning over brute defenses, so if you're the only defender in a group of four, it's easy to get in over your head.

Thanks E_B. For the most part, I've been shying away from powers that punish movement only (such as the Pathfinder's Wrong Step ability), although I'm quite ambivalent about them. I'm not sure if I should include them or not. I think they are useful for defenders but aren't by themselves sufficient to qualify a character as a defender.


Similarly, I've passed over the vast number of powers, that like Break the Tempo or, say, Vicious Mockery, punish or penalise an enemy for making any attack. Such powers are great, but they don't synergise in the same way with the high defenses and durability that a defender tends to have. In effect, many such powers (which I choose to class as "control" powers rather than "defender" powers) would be equally potent when used by a wizard or rogue as they would in the hands of a fighter or swordmage. Once again, I'm somewhat ambivalent on whether to include them in the guide. Defender powers or not, they are good powers and they do tend to fit thematically with the defender role.


Lastly, so far I've neglected to list all the methods of applying a mark to an enemy. Marking is definitely a good tool in the off-tank's arsenal though, so perhaps I should.


I guess I've got a few options with regards to each of these three categories of abilities. A) I could omit identifying specific powers entirely (and perhaps just discuss the kind of power in question and how it could be used). B) I could just list a few examples of the kind of power without trying to cover them all. C) I could list all of them briefly without going into detail on the specifics of the powers (saving my commentary for powers that are tactically more analogous to a mark). D) I could fully analyse every power of that category. It's a bit of a slippery slope as I think it's impossible to evaluate every attack/movement impairing effect across all classes in one guide. There are just too many! Perhaps they could be listed, although such a list might end up being rather large (would probably constitute about 20% of the powers in the game or something silly like that!) and without any ratings/commentary might not be particularly useful to people.


I'm considering replacing my power list with a seperate class-by-class evaluation, and within each class list powers, features and feats that are relevant. With such a format it might be possible for me to go into quite some detail regarding the true mark-less defender powers, and giving a brief listing/mention of other powers such as those that grant attack penalties, cancel movement, or confer a mark upon the target.


What do you think?

The first is a dwarf beastmaster ranger.

Interesting. How exactly would this translate into off-tanking in actual play? What would your basic strategy be for this character, and how do you encourage enemies to attack your beast companion, rather than your allies? That reminds me - I do need to include pet classes as potential off-tank classes. I think Abyssal Maws might have quite a bit of potential (especially if the summoner has Mark of Storm and a lightning weapon, now that I think of it!)

The whip allows you to do two silly things:
  1. Hand out -2's to hit in addition to a mark

  2. Attack from over your striker or main tanks head


Overall, your fighter sounds fairly similar to most fighters, so in that regard is fine for defending by itself or in conjunction with another defender (as long as you aren't competing for targets to mark). The whip is pretty interesting and might have applications when used on a solo that your ally has marked. Being able to provide a -2 penalty to attack that defender is good. The one thing I'd be concerned about is that you wouldn't necessarily have done anything to prevent the target from attacking your other allies, and you'd be relying upon the other defender to punish them for that. After all, if you are pretty tough (or hard to get to), and your defender ally's defenses are through the roof (and you've given the enemy a penalty to attack that guy) then the target will presumably try and attack somebody else, given half a chance. With careful positioning and the right party composition though (e.g. you and the defender both flank the target and no allies are reachable with a shift), you could lend your opportunity attacks to your buddy's in order to prevent the target from reaching your allies, and force them into that lose/lose dilemma.

Sorcerers make great off-tanks.

Thanks for the suggestion, ShakaUVM. Care to elaborate on that? I'd be keen to incorporate it into the guide, but a bit more detail would be fantastic ;)


It's my understanding that sorcerers can obtain pretty good AC if specced right (and are willing to spend actions buffing themselves to kingdom come) - that's half of the equation. What would be your preferred method of marking foes (or otherwise penalise them for attacking your allies?) Would you recommend a sorc/warden hybrid like in your Sorden Warchester build? What would your main strategy be as an offtank - use Nature's wrath to offtank one guy whilst also functioning as a striker? What would you do versus solos - take a back seat on the defender-front and focus primarily on your damage-dealing?


I'm curious as to how a sorcerer offtank would typically roll in play.


I'll definitely make a note of the numerous defensive buffs that sorcerers have available to them when I write up specific class summaries. Would you say that that's the main thing that sorcerer has to offer to a defender - the defense boosting powers/class feature? For instance, do they have any mark-less punishment abilities to bring to the table?


Also, checking out the hybrid warden has rekindled my interest in that class from an off-tank perspective. Unfortunately, single-classed wardens can run into problems working with other tanks because their primary marking mechanic is a bit... unselective. Hybrid wardens, on the other hand, have a single-target mark, which may actually be better if you're only hoping to fulfil the off-tanking role.

My Bardic Defender works well as an off-tank, as can other defender bard builds.  It has solid leader and control features in addition to solid defender capabilities.


 

One of the most interesting two-defender combos I've read about on these forums involved a pair of assault swordmagi; they marked each other's melee opponents and then switched places. (Via dimensional warp, or whatever.) As soon as either one was hit, the other's aegis kicked in. Very nasty. You could say they were both working as an 'off-tank' for the other.


PtM

Your house-rules suck.


My Bardic Defender works well as an off-tank, as can other defender bard builds.  It has solid leader and control features in addition to solid defender capabilities.


 






One of the most interesting two-defender combos I've read about on these forums involved a pair of assault swordmagi; they marked each other's melee opponents and then switched places. (Via dimensional warp, or whatever.) As soon as either one was hit, the other's aegis kicked in. Very nasty. You could say they were both working as an 'off-tank' for the other.


PtM





Hehe, together you've both summarised the two off-tank archetypes that are in my current adventuring party. I'm playing a bard/paladin and my fiancee is playing a feycharging swordmage. I find that the bard's multiple slides (majestic word, eldritch strike, shout of triumph, satire of bravery, scorpion's claw strike, song of the radiant dawn, illusory erasure) really helps the swordmage do her thing.

Dragon sorcs can have huge ac and a couple of good encounter powers that improve defenses.  Also a level (10?) daily that gives them huge ac.


I forget exactly how you make it attractive for enemies to actually attack you.  There was a sorcerer tank thread floating around somewhere.


Thanks for the suggestion, ShakaUVM. Care to elaborate on that? I'd be keen to incorporate it into the guide, but a bit more detail would be fantastic ;)


It's my understanding that sorcerers can obtain pretty good AC if specced right (and are willing to spend actions buffing themselves to kingdom come) - that's half of the equation. What would be your preferred method of marking foes (or otherwise penalise them for attacking your allies?) Would you recommend a sorc/warden hybrid like in your Sorden Warchester build? What would your main strategy be as an offtank - use Nature's wrath to offtank one guy whilst also functioning as a striker? What would you do versus solos - take a back seat on the defender-front and focus primarily on your damage-dealing?


I'm curious as to how a sorcerer offtank would typically roll in play.




I've played two. One is the Sorden Warchester build here:


forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?p=1899...


The other is in my home campaign. He's just a straight up dragon sorc, with the dragon sorc PP that gives him a marking breath attack. He off-tanks by leading off by marking a 3x3 area of foes, and then follows it up by walking in the middle of them and making a general nuisance of himself with a lot of close attacks. A couple weeks ago (at 10th level), we fought 4 shambling mounds and 1 boss shambling mound - he took on 4 of them while the rest of the party took on the other one. Via the defensive sorcerer utilities (which really rock) he was able to go incorporeal one round (reducing the 60 or so damage he took down to 30, and also freeing himself from a bad grab situation), boosted his AC to 29 with Deep Shroud, used Dragon Scales to negate an attack which would have hit and also given a rend attack to the monster, and did a rather large amount of damage to the bad guys. He's not fully specced to tank, with him devoting four feats to +to hit instead of, say, taking small and large shield proficiency, but he does pretty well for himself.


With the new Intimidate Skill Power, he could pick up another mark once per encounter, but I prefer having Deep Shroud in our campaign (since we fight only one combat per day).


A good first round with him (at 11th) would be the following:


Guardian's Breath 3x3 area of enemies. They take 2d10+16, are marked, and gain vulnerability 5 to my attacks. If they ignore me, they take 2d6+22 damage.


If we're novaing, we follow it up with an action point double striking attack, such as blazing bolts, flame spiral, or explosive pyre. Let's say flame spiral: they take another 1d10+21 + autohitting 1d6+11. So we've done something like 68 damage in a small AOE, and they'll take another 29 if they ignore my mark. Since monsters have ~100hp at this level, it's highly dubious they'd ignore the mark. They'll probably all be dead by the next round, so having just one round of marking is actually all I really need in practice. The main tank can pick up whoever is left after the alpha strike.


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====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Io Choo, level 11
Dragonborn, Sorcerer, Dragon Guardian
Build: Dragon Sorcerer
Spell Source: Dragon Magic
Dragon Soul: Dragon Soul Fire
Guardian's Resistance: Dragon Soul Lightning
Dragon Breath Key Ability: Dragon Breath Strength
Dragon Breath Damage Type: Dragon Breath Fire
Background: Akanûl (Akanûl Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 21, Con 14, Dex 12, Int 11, Wis 9, Cha 21.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 13, Dex 11, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 16.


AC: 25 Fort: 22 Reflex: 18 Will: 24
HP: 76 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 21

TRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +12, Intimidate +17, Diplomacy +15, Athletics +14

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +5, Bluff +10, Dungeoneering +4, Endurance +6, Heal +4, History +9, Insight +4, Nature +4, Perception +4, Religion +5, Stealth +5, Streetwise +10, Thievery +5

FEATS
Level 1: Draconic Spellcaster
Level 2: Arcane Familiar
Level 4: Focused Expertise (Quarterstaff)
Level 6: Spellseer Familiar
Level 8: Armor Proficiency (Leather)
Level 10: Armor Proficiency (Hide)
Level 11: Draconic Spellfury

POWERS
Sorcerer at-will 1: Burning Spray
Sorcerer at-will 1: Blazing Starfall
Sorcerer encounter 1: Explosive Pyre
Sorcerer daily 1: Lightning Breath
Sorcerer utility 2: Deep Shroud
Sorcerer encounter 3: Flame Spiral
Sorcerer daily 5: Thunder Leap
Sorcerer utility 6: Sudden Scales
Sorcerer encounter 7: Blazing Bolts
Sorcerer daily 9: Adamantine Echo
Sorcerer utility 10: Fog Form

ITEMS
Staff of Ruin +2, Bloodcut Hide Armor +2, Periapt of Cascading Health +2
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======


He's not fully specced to tank, with him devoting four feats to +to hit instead of, say, taking small and large shield proficiency, but he does pretty well for himself.


I can appreciate that reasoning. It's easy to forget that optimising a character doesn't necessarily mean making a one-trick pony (especially when many of the builds on the CharOp forum are intended more as a theoretical exercise than a build to be used in play). This is especially true for an off-tank. So I dig what you're saying.

Guardian's Breath 3x3 area of enemies. They take 2d10+16, are marked, and gain vulnerability 5 to my attacks. If they ignore me, they take 2d6+22 damage.

That's a pretty solid marking ability. Do you have any issues with overwriting the other tank's mark? Do you just get around it with careful positioning? Or does the other tank delay until after you've used your Guardian's Breath and then peel their chosen target away from you?

...They'll probably all be dead by the next round, so having just one round of marking is actually all I really need in practice. The main tank can pick up whoever is left after the alpha strike.

True. Even if they don't all die in two rounds, it sounds fairly likely that at least some of them will be dead. At that point it may not be so necessary to have a second tank - the other defender can mark any stragglers while you go back to your damage-dealing thing. That said, I'm still a fan of repeatable marks for those challenging level+5 encounters!

The build looks cool. It's good to see a more organic rather than theoretical build, so I'll put a link to Sorden as well as this one so people can see two different takes on a similar archetype.


The first is a dwarf beastmaster ranger.

Interesting. How exactly would this translate into off-tanking in actual play? What would your basic strategy be for this character, and how do you encourage enemies to attack your beast companion, rather than your allies?


Positioning, mostly. With my fencing boots and attack powers that allow me to shift and attack, I can present a seemingly good target (i.e. "hey look, we can all flank a striker!")—I picked up an Ornament of Alertness, which makes being mobbed not quite as frightening. Also, with two bodies and two AoO's, I can physically fill up smaller areas and force enemies to try and move through me.


 


The whip allows you to do two silly things:
  1. Hand out -2's to hit in addition to a mark

  2. Attack from over your striker or main tanks head


Overall, your fighter sounds fairly similar to most fighters, so in that regard is fine for defending by itself or in conjunction with another defender (as long as you aren't competing for targets to mark).


The difference, and why it's an "off-tank" build, is that it's designed for two things:


 


  • Blocking up big chunks of the battlefield

  • Moving enemies around and applying status effects (-2 to hit, daze, prone)

It's also not an extremely durable build. Also, my stealth score is higher than many rogues, so and this makes the build play a little different in some situations.


The whip is pretty interesting and might have applications when used on a solo that your ally has marked. Being able to provide a -2 penalty to attack that defender is good. The one thing I'd be concerned about is that you wouldn't necessarily have done anything to prevent the target from attacking your other allies, and you'd be relying upon the other defender to punish them for that. After all, if you are pretty tough (or hard to get to), and your defender ally's defenses are through the roof (and you've given the enemy a penalty to attack that guy) then the target will presumably try and attack somebody else, given half a chance.


Exactly. I usually give the -2s out to the most juicy-looking target, as a -4 to hit makes even a cloth sorcerer less appetizing. Giving the -2 to another defender is really situational, but can be very effective (e.g. when pairing with a paladin against a target vulnerable to radiant). The key is that you have a lot of tricks most defenders don't and sometimes—especially with combat challenge—that -2 is exactly what your squishies need exactly when they need it.

I can appreciate that reasoning. It's easy to forget that optimising a character doesn't necessarily mean making a one-trick pony (especially when many of the builds on the CharOp forum are intended more as a theoretical exercise than a build to be used in play). This is especially true for an off-tank. So I dig what you're saying.

Yeah. Theoretical builds often result in characters that aren't much good in practice. If you optimize for all defense and no offense, a tank isn't very good, unless they have some way of forcing the foes only to attack them (which there's only a couple ways of doing). If enemies ignore a tank, and all you can do to them is a vanilla punishment attack, all you're really doing is just giving them a -10% to hit debuff, and are otherwise just another damage dealer. And probably a weak DD at that.

I.e., if you take a DPR loss on your build, even with punishment attacks included, you're not being as effective as you can be.


That's a pretty solid marking ability. Do you have any issues with overwriting the other tank's mark? Do you just get around it with careful positioning? Or does the other tank delay until after you've used your Guardian's Breath and then peel their chosen target away from you?

At 2d6+22 or whatever, autohitting, it deals far more damage than the main tank. And since I can turn insubstantial for the round when I pick up aggro on a pack of monsters, there's not much of a downside to letting me just take all the hits. He usually goes elsewhere during that round. A good way we split it up is to put him on an elite, and me on a group of normal foes.

True. Even if they don't all die in two rounds, it sounds fairly likely that at least some of them will be dead. At that point it may not be so necessary to have a second tank - the other defender can mark any stragglers while you go back to your damage-dealing thing. That said, I'm still a fan of repeatable marks for those challenging level+5 encounters!

Oh, the marking ability? It's a damage dealing thing. =) It not only marks, but adds Vuln 5 to all my attacks until the end of my next round, as well as a huge punishment attack if they ignore me. The next round of combat I follow up with a sorcerer double attack (and an action point double attack every other combat as well) and a dragonborn breath attack, which results in it all told dealing rather ridiculous amounts of damage. Especially with a damage zone up, and the party rogue more than willing to slide enemies around inside of it. The marking is the peanut butter to the chocolate on the power, since my defense is just as good as our main tank's, and so it gives me a way to make more use out of it.

But even in general, I've found that monsters tend to just swing at whatever is in their face, and since dragon sorcs run up and close attack whenever they can, the whole marking thing isn't even really necessary most of the time. If 4 monsters have you in an iron cross, they're often happy just staying there, as long as they have at least some chance of hitting you. DMs don't like to break up their nice flank setup, and my dragon sorc is more than happy to sit in the middle of it as well. When both sides are happy with a situation, you don't need to mark them to encourage them to do it. The AOE mark is great since it means the monsters have to spend a round getting into place around, a setup they don't want to usually leave.


Also, my party is full of jerks, who tend to run away from large masses of monsters and fight the solitary one standing off to the side, main tank included. =)


The build looks cool. It's good to see a more organic rather than theoretical build, so I'll put a link to Sorden as well as this one so people can see two different takes on a similar archetype.

Sorry, that link to Sorden was broken (ugh, the new forums suck), but I think I've fixed it now. He worked out quite well in practice as well, but has a different spin on it (he actually marks every round and tries to get surrounded by enemies).

And, BTW, your guide is great.

Oh, the marking ability? It's a damage dealing thing. =)

I guess what I meant to say was "continue your damage-dealing thing.' :P

And, BTW, your guide is great.

Thanks a lot :D

Great thread. Thanks for making it.


Re: Hounding Longarm, my one quibble with the ability is that it requires an immediate action to shift and attack, which means I can't use the power and Combat Challenge in the same round. I'm playing a greatspear fighter and want to retrain my 5th-level daily, but am leaning towards Bedeviling Assault because, while it doesn't let you shift, it does let you make your attack as a free action. And since I already have reach with the greatspear, the shift 1 isn't as important to me.


 

I was wonder whether a taclord could be an effective off-tank. Currently, i'm using a earthsoul genasi taclord, and planning to go into multiclassing swordmage. As an off tank, i took opening shove, viper strike, with the idea in mind that i can shift the semi-surrounded defender out of a bad position using openshove or knock a offender away from a squishy. Also works as a semi-defender by sticking to a guy and then use viper strike, usually in flanking position. taking up non-mark related swordmage skills like the lv 3 dimensional vortex. I can also get free AC once per day if really needed (such as if the main defender is down), and work as a secondary defender. Heavy blade opportunity at paragon allows me to knock someone away from their original path with opening shove, and i could retraing out viper strike for something else such as either wolf pact tactics to allow a squishy next to me to shift behind me.


 


Just a clarification: Does viper strike works with the sharpshooter's paragon path feature that allows the ranger to make opportunity attack using range basic attack?

I'm playing a greatspear fighter and want to retrain my 5th-level daily, but am leaning towards Bedeviling Assault because, while it doesn't let you shift, it does let you make your attack as a free action.


I was actually thinking of retraining into it too. Getting an extra attack in while dazed is a huge upside as you go up in levels.


Great thread. Thanks for making it.


Re: Hounding Longarm, my one quibble with the ability is that it requires an immediate action to shift and attack, which means I can't use the power and Combat Challenge in the same round. I'm playing a greatspear fighter and want to retrain my 5th-level daily, but am leaning towards Bedeviling Assault because, while it doesn't let you shift, it does let you make your attack as a free action. And since I already have reach with the greatspear, the shift 1 isn't as important to me.





Hounding Longarm is definitely not quite as good for fighters against targets they have already marked. It really shines, though, for off-tanks, as it is mark-less unlike combat challenge. A solo affected by the fighter's Hounding Longarm as well as a swordmage's aegis is in a bit of a pickle. Given that the fighter couldn't have marked the solo without overwriting the aegis, the fact that the Hounding Longarm attack also uses an immediate action is less of an issue (though, of course, it would still be nice if it was a free action!)

Bedeviling Assault is a good enough power. The only reason i haven't mentioned it in this guide is that I'm trying to stick mostly to powers that are specifically useful for off-tanks. Bedeviling Assault would probably be just as good for a solo defender or even melee striker as it would be for an off-tank. I guess that's one thing that this guide might be missing, and I'm not sure exactly how to get around it. If my lists of powers are quite selective and only include specifically offtank powers, then people might take that to mean that they should only take those powers. I wouldn't want to give that impression. Sometimes a power is just so awesome that you should take it regardless of whether there's a weaker power with off-tank applications at that level.


I was wonder whether a taclord could be an effective off-tank. Currently, i'm using a earthsoul genasi taclord, and planning to go into multiclassing swordmage.


I think taclords have quite a lot of ability-score related synergy with swordmages. If you ever wanted to enhance your tanking power a bit more then it might actually be worth paragon multiclassing to get a 1/end aegis (even though I normally wouldn't recommend PMC!) Probably the other option for a taclord that wants to do some off-tanking is a polearm gambling spec, perhaps multiclassed as a fighter for polearm momentum. The reason I say this is that so many taclord powers are made much better by a reach weapon. That said, you'd be rather MAD - you'd be somewhat dependent upon strength, dexterity, intelligence, and wisdom to get all the feats you wanted!

 


Just a clarification: Does viper strike works with the sharpshooter's paragon path feature that allows the ranger to make opportunity attack using range basic attack?




I don't see why it wouldn't.

Great thread, Psk!

You got me thinking about the "defender duo" thing since we talked about your Bard using Demand Respect, and I started thinking about refining the basic tactics the Shielding SM and Pally in my party uses. The main issue with that duo is that my Pally is usually the party's main/only defender (the SM only joins in about one of four of the sessions) but I believe the SM could almost do the job alone in many encounters, especially since the party also includes a tough InspirLord frontliner - meaning we're sorta wasting talent. Add to that, since my Pally is primarily designed to be the only defender, it isn't optimized to cooperate with the SM.

So when I noticed this thread yesterday I decided to do two quick example builds designed to:


  • do the defender job together

  • optimize kiting and "target trading" (ie focus fire on the enemies marked by the other defender)

  • fill (or greatly support) two other roles as well

I believe there are quite a few really good ways to achieve this, but since I'm still in love with Stormtroopers (both the SW originals and the mechanical D&D concept), I built these both around the Mark of Storm Dragonmark. However, they could be called an elite defender pair, so I believe the red armor would be more fitting than the white Wink, hence:


The Royal Guard Defenders


Royal Guard builds
Built to protect the party...


Crimson Chain Guard


Class: Psk20 Tactical Defense Swordlock
Type: Controller


This hybrid Swordlock primarily uses the Shielding Aegis, Curse, Sigil Carver's MBA's, Shadow Walk and teleportation powers to protect allies and kite. As this build's mark is very powerful, it focuses on powers that helps making it a difficult or impossible target and enables kiting. Great mobility, control abilities and huge area effectiveness (can make accurate sliding OAs against enemies in an area of up to 256 squares). By cursing and focusing its more damaging attacks on the enemies challenged by the defender partner, this build is also able to often make the partner's mark trigger (and thus usually wasting the enemy's attack). A true Gish.


====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Psk20: Crimson Chain Guard, level 30
Githyanki, Swordmage|Warlock, Sigil Carver, Demigod
Swordmage Aegis (Hybrid): Aegis of Shielding
Eldritch Pact (Hybrid): Infernal Pact (Hybrid)
Eldritch Strike: Eldritch Strike Constitution
Hybrid Warlock: Hybrid Warlock Will
Hybrid Talent: Shadow Walk
Twofold Pact: Star Pact
Divine Spark: Divine Spark Intelligence
Divine Spark: Divine Spark Constitution
Arcane Admixture Damage Type: Arcane Admixture Thunder
Arcane Admixture Power: Eldritch Strike
Background: Windrise Ports (Windrise Ports Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 13, Con 28, Dex 15, Int 28, Wis 12, Cha 10.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 11, Con 16, Dex 13, Int 16, Wis 10, Cha 8.

AC: 44 Fort: 45 Reflex: 42 Will: 37
HP: 186 Surges: 16 Surge Value: 46

TRAINED SKILLS
Endurance +29, History +35, Arcana +33

FEATS
Level 1: Spiked Chain Training
Level 2: Hybrid Talent
Level 4: Focused Expertise (Spiked chain)
Level 6: Dual Implement Spellcaster
Level 8: Spiked Chain Expert
Level 10: Arcane Familiar
Level 11: Twofold Pact
Level 12: Double Aegis (retrained to Total Aegis at Level 21)
Level 14: Greater Aegis of Shielding
Level 16: White Lotus Riposte
Level 18: Lasting Frost
Level 20: Wintertouched
Level 21: Student of the Athanaeum
Level 22: Mark of Storm
Level 24: Arcane Admixture
Level 26: Warding Curse
Level 28: Echoes of Thunder
Level 30: Robust Defenses

POWERS
Hybrid Swordmage at-will 1: Sword Burst
Hybrid Warlock at-will 1: Eldritch Strike
Hybrid encounter 1: Sword of Sigils
Hybrid daily 1: Tyranny of Flame
Hybrid utility 2: Ethereal Stride
Hybrid encounter 3: Vestige's Calamity
Hybrid daily 5: Swordmage Shielding Fire (retrained to Tyrannical Threat at Level 11)
Hybrid utility 6: Swordmage's Decree (retrained to Chain Ward at Spiked Chain Expert)
Hybrid encounter 7: Infernal Moon Curse
Hybrid daily 9: Glamor Blade
Hybrid utility 10: Etheral Sidestep
Hybrid encounter 13: Silverlight Strike (replaces Sword of Sigils)
Hybrid daily 15: Hunter's Pursuit (replaces Tyranny of Flame)
Hybrid utility 16: Armathor's Step
Hybrid encounter 17: Thundering Vortex (retrained to Despair of Zhudun at Level 23) (replaces Vestige's Calamity)
Hybrid daily 19: Vestige of Solis (replaces Tyrannical Threat)
Hybrid utility 22: Giant's Might
Hybrid encounter 23: Thunder Riposte (replaces Infernal Moon Curse)
Hybrid daily 25: Quicksilver Blade (replaces Glamor Blade)
Hybrid encounter 27: Circle of Devastation (replaces Silverlight Strike)
Hybrid daily 29: Mirrorblade Army (replaces Hunter's Pursuit)

ITEMS
Opal Ring of Remembrance (epic tier), Hands of Hadar (epic tier), Far-Step Amulet +6, Siberys Shard of Merciless Cold (epic tier), Clockwork Cowl (epic tier), Shadow Warlock Starleather Armor +6, Barrage Bracers (heroic tier), Greater Ring of Invisibility (epic tier), Frost Spiked chain +6, Boots of Teleportation (epic tier), Diamond Cincture (epic tier), Diamond Scabbard (epic tier), Tattoo of the Wolverine (epic tier)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======


Royal Pain Guard


Class: Psk20 Tactical Defense Sorcadin
Type: Striker


This hybrid dragonborn Sorcadin wielding a lightning Zulaat is designed to effectively pursue and punish the Crimson Chain's marked targets while keeping its own challenged or sanctioned enemies away and/or prone in the worst positions. The mark doesn't do very much damage, but since it slides (weakens in higher levels) the attacker is often wasting its entire turn by going after any other target than the Royal Pain. The name is certainly fitting as well, as this Guard has a varied arsenal of seriously damaging and debilitating attacks. A true master of the storm. (Note the Ollamh Harp for party-wide storm-buffs!)

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Psk20: Royal Pain Guard, level 30
Dragonborn, Paladin|Sorcerer, Kensei, Avatar of Storm
Hybrid Paladin: Hybrid Paladin Reflex
Sorcerous Power: Sorcerous Power Strength
Hybrid Talent: Channel Divinity (Hybrid Paladin)
Arcane Implement Proficiency: Heavy Blade group
Student of the Sword: Student of Two-Handed Weapons
Kensei Focus: Kensei Focus Zulaat
Dragon Breath Key Ability: Dragon Breath Strength
Dragon Breath Damage Type: Dragon Breath Lightning
Background: Windrise Ports (Windrise Ports Benefit)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 26, Con 14, Dex 15, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 26.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 10, Dex 12, Int 8, Wis 12, Cha 16.


AC: 44 Fort: 42 Reflex: 34 Will: 40
HP: 172 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 45

TRAINED SKILLS
Diplomacy +28, Athletics +28, Religion +20, Intimidate +30, Perception +22

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +17, Arcana +15, Bluff +23, Dungeoneering +17, Endurance +17, Heal +17, History +17, Insight +17, Nature +17, Stealth +17, Streetwise +23, Thievery +17

FEATS
Level 1: Hybrid Talent
Level 2: Armor Proficiency (Leather)
Level 4: Weapon Proficiency (Zulaat)
Level 6: Focused Expertise (Zulaat)
Level 8: Arcane Implement Proficiency (Heavy Blade)
Level 10: Student of the Sword (retrained to Battle Awareness at Level 11)
Level 11: Forceful Challenge (retrained to Weakening Challenge at Level 22)
Level 12: Draconic Spellcaster
Level 14: Mark of Storm
Level 16: Dual Implement Spellcaster
Level 18: Echoes of Thunder (retrained to Draconic Arrogance at Level 24)
Level 20: Storm Sacrifice
Level 21: Tireless Wrath
Level 22: Polearm Gamble
Level 24: Berserker's Fury
Level 26: Novice Power
Level 28: Epic Resurgence
Level 30: Echoes of Thunder

POWERS
Channel Divinity (Hybrid Paladin): Divine Strength
Hybrid Paladin at-will 1: Holy Strike
Hybrid Sorcerer at-will 1: Dragonfrost
Hybrid encounter 1: Tempest Breath
Hybrid daily 1: Blood of the Mighty
Hybrid utility 2: Bless Weapon
Hybrid encounter 3: Hold Fast
Hybrid daily 5: Slaad's Gambit (retrained to Sign of Vulnerability at Level 5)
Hybrid utility 6: Sudden Scales
Hybrid encounter 7: Blazing Bolts
Hybrid daily 9: Adamantine Echo
Hybrid utility 10: Virtue
Hybrid encounter 13: Zealous Smite (replaces Tempest Breath)
Hybrid daily 15: Lightning Daggers (replaces Blood of the Mighty)
Hybrid utility 16: Draconic Majesty
Hybrid encounter 17: Mark of Terror (retrained to Azure Talons at Level 23) (replaces Hold Fast)
Hybrid daily 19: Wheel of Fate (replaces Sign of Vulnerability)
Hybrid utility 22: Platinum Scales
Hybrid encounter 23: Demand Respect (replaces Blazing Bolts)
Hybrid daily 25: Draconic Incarnation (replaces Adamantine Echo)
Hybrid encounter 27: Stunning Smite (retrained to Hurricane of Blades at Novice Power) (replaces Zealous Smite)
Hybrid daily 29: Powerful Faith (replaces Lightning Daggers)

ITEMS
Clockwork Cowl (epic tier), Ring of Free Time (epic tier), Barrage Bracers (heroic tier), Great Hero's Gauntlets (epic tier), Periapt of Cascading Health +6, Diamond Cincture (epic tier), Demonskin Tattoo (epic tier), Eberron Shard of Lightning (epic tier) (2), Starleather Armor of Dark Deeds +6, Ring of the Radiant Storm (paragon tier), Rushing Cleats (heroic tier), Symbol of Victory +2, Lightning Zulaat +6, Solitaire (Violet) (epic tier), Diamond Scabbard (epic tier), Ollamh Harp +6
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

Hope you like 'em!

Thoughts/ideas/critique/questions etc are of course welcome. I especially think the Royal Pain build could be improved - it's the most feat and stat hungry build I've ever made...

Test your PC builds' combat prowess and pit them against other builds at the Core Coliseum - the online D&D arena.

Those are brilliant, Upho! Actually, my bard/paladin actually works alongside a swordmage. Although they probably aren't nearly as optimised (as my bard has developed somewhat organically over the last 12 levels, we've been avoiding the hybrid rules in this campaign) but it has been a lot of fun. When we reach late paragon/epic tier I think things will get even better as both of us start picking up a few more methods of mark-less punishment (I think she'll be grabbing Reaper's Challenge at 15 and I'll be picking up Demand Respect for sure, and am also contemplating taking Mocking Epigram and Discipline the Unruly).


I haven't really closely contemplated exactly how the two builds work, but a few questions:


Is your aim to use Demand Respect multiple times per encounter through Demigod? That would be pretty sweet.


Did you consider getting the paladin 25 daily Discipline the Unruly? I think it's one of the best "mark-less" punishment powers that I've spotted so far. Probably its biggest weakness for your setup is the range of 5, however - I imagine the swordmage/warlock might spend a good deal of their time a bit further away from the pally than that.


As a random aside, I've had a few thoughts about how to make the most of Discipline the Unruly. With a ring of the radiant storm, you get to reroll all damage dice (which, by itself, is rather nice), but the real gem is that if you miss on the attack roll for Discipline the Unruly, you can use the ring's daily power to get DtU back (only after a milestone, however). Because missing with DtU still gives you the buff, you'd get to have that sweet mark-less punishment mechanic for two encounters per day. If you had a way of getting item daily powers back (I think the creation PP gives you a 50% chance of doing this 1/encounter but there may be a more reliable method that I'm not aware of), you might be able to get three or four uses of DtU per day. That said, you'd have to wait for the first milestone for this to kick into effect


Still, it might be quite good. Strangely, in this case you'd WANT to miss with DtU, which could lead to some rather silly cheesy moves. Make the attack without a weapon equipped to ensure a miss? Could maybe rename the power "windmill ineffectively at the unruly!" I think my DM may threaten me with physical harm if I tried that at our table, but it's funny to contemplate.

I haven't really closely contemplated exactly how the two builds work, but a few questions:

Is your aim to use Demand Respect multiple times per encounter through Demigod? That would be pretty sweet.


Did you consider getting the paladin 25 daily Discipline the Unruly? I think it's one of the best "mark-less" punishment powers that I've spotted so far. Probably its biggest weakness for your setup is the range of 5, however - I imagine the swordmage/warlock might spend a good deal of their time a bit further away from the pally than that.


I really should've explained some of my choices and the preferred tactics in greater detail - especially since these two are all about tactics...
I blame it on being too distracted by work at the time I posted...

Spamming Demand Respect through Demigod isn't a bad idea, although it's sort of a level 30 only trick (besides Divine Mastery or crits + Epic Resurgence). But it wasn't the plan, as you'll notice that the "Royal Pain" is actually an Avatar of Storm, not a Demigod. And even if it had been a Demigod, I believe the awesome Hurricane of Blades would still have been a better choice, even though it means the defense co-op has to take a step back. HoB is just hilariously cheestastic when paired with the growing Echoes of Thunder and Barrage Bracers bonuses this build uses. Very striker-ish.

And yes, I did consider Discipline the Unruly (it really is great), but at level 29 that would've resulted in the build having only Pally daily powers, which would be against the hybrid rules. Of all the lvl 29 powers, Powerful Faith seemed like the best one for the striker-ish Royal Pain as it deals decent single target damage and blinds enemies in a huge close burst 10. The Sorcerer options are all remarkably crappy, I think. (An alternative would perhaps be the more controller-ish Prostration, but that's also a Pally power.) Of the level 19 powers, I believe the healing of Wheel of Fate is needed for this build's rather delicate health and the Sorcerer options all lack the Thunder or Lightning keywords. (Although if the build hadn't been dependent on Thunder/Lightning implement powers, I think there would've been really good Sorcerer options at this level, for example Aspect of the Dragon, Baleful Gaze of the Basilisk and Blackfire Serpent.) Of course, taking Discipline the Unruly and then retrain to Draconic Incarnation at level 29 seems like a good idea, I think I'll add that.

I'll edit my post and add more examples/details later, but here's a few notable stats and tricks in a dangerous high level encounter:

Multiple High Level Foes Encounter


Crimson Chain Guard (CC) starts with full HP, 10 surges, all powers, 1 AP and has reached a milestone. Initiative 34 - first, closest to the enemies.

Royal Pain Guard (RP) starts with full HP, 7 surges, all powers, 1 AP and has reached a milestone. Initiative 31 - third, 2 squares behind CC.

Other party members only supplies a constant +1 power bonus to hit and battles other enemies.

Enemy EC: level 33 elite controller (melee focused), standard DMG stats (defenses: AC 49, Fort 47, Ref 45, Will 47; Speed fly 8; MBA: reach 3, +38 vs AC (interrupts when enemy moves adjacent), 3d10+12 grabs; RBA: ranged 10, +37 vs Fort, 2d10+12 weakens and dazes (save ends); large size; 664 HP; 62,000 XP). Starts at initiative 33 - second, 3 squares from CC.

Enemy So: level 33 soldier, standard DMG stats (defenses: AC 49, NADs 45; Speed fly 8; MBA reach 2, +40 vs AC, 3d10+12 slows until end of next turn; large size; 301 HP; 31,000 XP). Starts at initiative 30 - fourth, 7 squares from CC and 2 squares from Br.

Enemy Br: level 33 brute, standard DMG stats (defenses: 45; Speed fly 8; MBA: reach 2, +36 vs AC, 4d10+12 push 2 and prones; large size; 369 HP; 31,000 XP). Starts at initiative 27 - fifth, 6 squares from CC and 4 squares from EC.

Other monsters OM: removes 10 HP per round from CC and RP (3 x level 30 standard monsters 19,000 XP each, and 3 x level 30 minions 4,750 XP each) starting in clusters behind enemy So and Br.

The battlefield is a huge flat field with no obstacles or traps. No combatant is surprised.


Encounter level 33 (195,250 XP)

(I won't use all these stats in the example, but I thought we might want to expand it later on and/or perhaps consider potentially great monster options I may forget/disregard.)


CC Turn 1: Chain Domination


Crimson Chain Guard daily combo


Actions:


  1. Minor: Giant's Might (utility 22)

  2. Free: Curse enemy A and stow rod (Quickcurse Rod)

  3. Minor: Chain Ward (utility 6)

  4. Minor: Clockwork Cowl (item daily power):
    1. Move: walk 6 squares so enemies So and Br are 2 squares away and closest enemies, gain concealment and gain a +2 additional bonus to all defenses vs Cursed enemies (Shadow Stride + Warding Curse)

    2. Standard: Mirroblade Army: images spread out to cover maximum area and protect as many allies as possible


  5. Free: Retrieve Rods and Curse enemy So and Br (and any OM at the same distance) (Rakshasa Claw familiar, Quickcurse Rods) 

  6. Free: Stow Rods (Rakshasa Claw familiar)

  7. Free: Ring of Free Time (at-will item power)
    1. Minor Action: Mark enemy EC from mirror image with Aegis of Shielding


  8. AP - Standard: Draw Frost Spiked Chain and attack enemy EC, for example with Despair of Zhudun, using the Diamond Scabbard (+36 vs Will 47, 16 average damage and 50% chance of knocking EC prone (encounter 17, item encounter power) (Diamond Scabbard)

Encounter Effects:


  • Eldritch Strike MBA attack bonus: from +39 to more than +45 (+2 if cursed or hit since start of CC's last turn) (+15 lvl, +9 Con, +3 prof, +6 enhancement, +3 FE, +2 Giant's Might, +1 ally bonus, +2 CA Shadow Stride + Shadow Warlock Armor property or Wintertouched + Lasting Frost).

  • Eldritch Strike MBA average damage: +30/+35 (+5 if hit with Cold power since start of CC's last turn) (4d4 die, +9 Con, +6 enhancement, +5 Shard, +5 Giant's Might (+5 Lasting Frost)).

  • Eldritch Strike MBA hit effects: push 2 and slide 2, punishes attack attempts on CC with 9 damage  (push - 1 Eldritch Strike +1 Rushing Cleats; slide - 1 Arcane Admixture + Mark of Storm, +1 Rushing Cleats; White Lotus Riposte).

  • Interrupting Eldritch Strike MBA: usually invalidates the triggering action the enemy's attack and/or movement is wasted because of the push and slide effect.

  • Reach: covering an area of up to 704 squares (10 Mirrorblade Army images +1 real CC, all 11 positions having threatening reach in an area of up to 64 squares: (2*[radius 1 Large size space, +1 Spiked Chain, +1 Giant's Might])2 area).

  • Threatening Reach: any enemy moving or making a ranged/area attack within the area is attacked by an OA (Chain Ward).

  • Additional MBA Interrupt Triggers: any enemy within 5 squares that hits an ally adjacent to CC or one of the 10 images also eats an Eldritch Strike MBA (Punishing Sigil)

  • Implement attack bonus: from +34 to more than +41 (+1 per previous melee hit since end of last turn, +2 if using Int, +2 if Cursed or hit by CC since start of last turn) (+15 lvl, +9 Con/Int, +6 enhancement, +3 FE, +1 per previous melee hit Barrage Bracers, +2 Opal Ring of Remembrance, +2 CA Shadow Stride + Shadow Warlock Armor property or Wintertouched + Lasting Frost)

  • Implement damage bonus: +21/+26/+31 (+5 if hit by Cold power, +5 if hit by Cold power again since start of last turn) (+9 Con/Int, +6 enhancement, +6 Off-hand enhancement, +5 Shard, +5 Lasting Frost).

  • Warlocks Curse damage bonus: +3d6/+5d6 once per turn with Warlock powers (+2d6 if enemy grants CA) (Hands of Hadar).

  • Aegis reduces 29 damage: once per turn, one marked enemy's attack that hits an ally receives a -29 damage penalty, thus the triggering attack often deals no damage (15 Aegis, +9 Con, +5 Greater Aegis).

Enemy EC Turn 1


For simplicity's sake, let's say EC was hit by CC's Despair of Zhudun. EC is now prone 5 squares from CC and RP, and if it stands up it takes 9 average damage, grants CA and has a -2 attack penalty.


Options:


  • Stand up and Charge CC: requires a move which will trigger an OA (+41 vs AC 49, 34 average damage, 65% chance of pushing 2 + sliding 2 and invalidating the charge).

  • Make a RBA against CC: OA triggered by the ranged attack, effects as above (although the OA won't invalidate the attack) and RP will use Demand Respect which will knock EC prone again and invalidate the attack.

  • Attack anyone else: triggers OA and Aegis will reduce all damage.

RP Turn 1: Building the Storm


Royal Pain daily combo part 1


Round 1 Actions:


  1. Free: Ring of Free Time (at-will item power)
    1. Minor Action: Gather the Storm (utility 26)


  2. Minor: Clockwork Cowl (daily item power) first granted action:
    1. Move: Fly 8 to 2 squares from enemy EC (Windstrider - Avatar of Storm class feature)


  3. Standard: Draw Lightning Zulaat and attack EC, Br and So with Weaponsoul Dance (+38 vs EC's AC 49, 24 average damage, 50% chance of immobilizing, sliding 2 and knocking EC prone; +37 vs Br's AC 45, 29 average damage, 65% chance of immobilizing, sliding 2 and knocking Br prone; +38 vs So's AC 49, 22 average damage, 50% chance of immobilizing, sliding 2 and knocking EC prone;) (daily 20) (Diamond Scabbard)

  4. Minor: Mark enemy Br and So and all OM within burst 3 with Call of Challenge (utility 2)

  5. Clockwork Cowl second granted action:
    1. Move: Fly 8 to between 3-5 squares of CC and enemies EC, Br and So (Windstrider)


Encounter Effects:


  • All attacks deal Lightning and Thunder damage except Demand Respect (encounter 23) (Lightning Zulaat, Stormhand - Avatar of Storm class feature).

  • All  attacks slide 2 and knocks prone except Demand Respect and Dragon Breath which only slides 2 (Lightning Zulaat, Mark of Storm, Rushing Cleats, Polearm Momentum).

  • Enemies within 5 gains Lightning and Thunder vulnerability 10 through Gather the Storm.

  • Melee attack bonus: from +36 to +INSANE (+1 per hit until end of turn, +1 if Royal Pain is bloodied, +2 if spending AP for the attack (+15 lvl, +8 Str/Cha, +2 prof, +6 enhancement, +3 FE, +1 Kensei Focus, +1 Bless Weapon/ally bonus, +1 per hit Barrage Bracers, +1 Dragonborn Fury, +2 Great Hero's Gauntlets).

  • Melee damage bonus: from +31 to more than +94 (+3 per hit until end of next turn) (+8 Str, +6 enhancement, +4 Kensei Focus, +5 Shard, +8 Str Draconic Arrogance, +10 Gather the Storm, +8 Str Divine Strength, +3 per previous hit during this and last turn Echoes of Thunder, +1d6 Bless Weapon).

  • Implement attack bonus: from +37 to +INSANE (+1 per previous melee hit since end of last turn, +1 if Royal Pain is bloodied, +2 if spending AP for the attack (+15 lvl, +8 Str/Cha, +6 enhancement, +3 FE, +1 Kensei Focus, +1 Bless Weapon/ally bonus, +3 Draconic Spellcaster, +1 per previous melee hit Barrage Bracers, +1 Dragonborn Fury, +2 Great Hero's Gauntlets).

  • Implement damage bonus: from +49 to more than +110 (+3 per hit until end of next turn) (+8 Cha, +12 Sorcerous Power, +6 enhancement, +6 Off-hand enhancement, +4 Kensei Focus, +5 Shard, +10 Gather the Storm, +8 Str Polearm Momentum, +8 Str Divine Strength, +3 per previous hit during this and last turn Echoes of Thunder, +1d6 Bless Weapon).

  • Divine Challenge/Sanction: deals 12/17 radiant damage and weakens (Divine Challenge (Hybrid), Divine Sanction, Weakening Challenge).

Enemy So and Br Turn 1


Br and So have about the same options as CE, but their attacks against other than RP will also trigger Divine Sanction's 17 damage and weaken the attacker (usually not totally invalidating the attack, but demanding a hefty tax). CC will also have Thunder Riposte triggered by the first attack that hits RP and invalidate the attack, and RP will use Demand Respect (if not spent).

One final interesting turn:


RP Turn 2: Hurricane Overkill


Royal Pain daily combo part 2


Actions:


  1. Free: Ring of Free Time (at-will item power)
    1. Minor Action: Divine Strength (encounter feat power) (Hybrid Talent: Channel Divinity)


  2. Minor: Bless Weapon (Utility 2)

  3. Minor: Attack enemy EC, Br and So with Dragon Breath (racial encounter)

  4. AP - Standard: Attack enemy EC with Hurricane of Blades (+37 (+1 per hit) vs AC 49, 296 average damage) (encounter 27)
    1. Free on Crit: Regain Hurricane of Blades (62% crit chance) (Epic Resurgence)

    2. Free on Crit: Gain extra AP through Violet Solitaire (62% crit chance) (daily item power)


  5. Extra AP - Standard: Kill enemy EC with Hurricane of Blades (+45 (+1 per hit) vs AC 49, 502 average damage)

  6. Standard: Attack enemy Br and So and all OM in blast 5 with Draconic Incarnation (+53 vs Reflex 45, 124 (+3 per hit) average damage) (daily 25)

  7. Free: Slide enemy So 2 squares to adjacent (Draconic Incarnation)

As a random aside, I've had a few thoughts about how to make the most of Discipline the Unruly. With a ring of the radiant storm, you get to reroll all damage dice (which, by itself, is rather nice), but the real gem is that if you miss on the attack roll for Discipline the Unruly, you can use the ring's daily power to get DtU back (only after a milestone, however). Because missing with DtU still gives you the buff, you'd get to have that sweet mark-less punishment mechanic for two encounters per day. If you had a way of getting item daily powers back (I think the creation PP gives you a 50% chance of doing this 1/encounter but there may be a more reliable method that I'm not aware of), you might be able to get three or four uses of DtU per day. That said, you'd have to wait for the first milestone for this to kick into effect

Still, it might be quite good. Strangely, in this case you'd WANT to miss with DtU, which could lead to some rather silly cheesy moves. Make the attack without a weapon equipped to ensure a miss? Could maybe rename the power "windmill ineffectively at the unruly!" I think my DM may threaten me with physical harm if I tried that at our table, but it's funny to contemplate.


Heh, that's quite a strategy! And yeah, I think at least my DM would "Demand Respect" and indeed threaten me with physical harm if I tried the windmill stunt... Wink

But DtU is still a really great power, being able to repeat it is definitely worth using both items and other daily powers if the build can take maximum advantage of it.

As a sidenote, the RP build was made for making the DM cry by using forced movement and prones on several enemies on every turn, rather than spamming mark-less attack punishments (although RP also have a few such options in many situations). Prone basically removes a move action from the enemy and thereby drastically decreases its options, especially if it's also slid into the worst possible position. (I'm too lazy to illustrate all those possibilities in the example above as it requires a lot of diagrams and soon gets pretty complicated...)

 

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Hounding Longarm is definitely not quite as good for fighters against targets they have already marked. It really shines, though, for off-tanks, as it is mark-less unlike combat challenge. A solo affected by the fighter's Hounding Longarm as well as a swordmage's aegis is in a bit of a pickle. Given that the fighter couldn't have marked the solo without overwriting the aegis, the fact that the Hounding Longarm attack also uses an immediate action is less of an issue (though, of course, it would still be nice if it was a free action!)


Good points. And of course, my experience will probably change as my fighter moves through the epic tier and solos start to crop up more often. The only other issue I have is that Hounding Longarm targets Fortitude, not AC, and doesn't Fort tend to be a higher defense for solos?


 

Does Mirrorblade Army work with Clockwork Cowl? I wouldn't think so, since it's "Swordmage Attack 29."