Cruel Lullabies: The Bard Handbook

689 posts / 0 new
Last post

Cruel Lullabies:


The Bard Handbook


 


pied1.jpg


 


So, you want to be a Bard, huh? Think it's all about charming the ladies, prancing around, or earning lots and lots of coin? Think again. You're here to lead people into battle, and I don't mean going all Pied Piper and marching kids into a war zone (although some of you might think that's fun). In fact, you might want to make sure you're as good with that blade as you are with your lute. Celts and Vikings are more our model here.


So why play a Bard?


Clerics close wounds fast and Warlords make things die fast, so what is special about you besides the fact you can sing? Well, quite a bit:


* You are the master of positioning. You have a knack for making sure your allies are in the right place at the right time. After all, it doesn't matter how good your party's nova potential is if they're not in a position to unleash it, and you can get a party into position more consistently and expediently than any other Leader can. And not only do you get your allies into the right place, but you also tend to force enemies there.


* You tend to cripple the enemy as much as you help your allies. With your natural secondary role as Controller, this isn't really a surprise. You like to jinx the enemies' attacks, strip their defenses, inflict status effects, and generally do a lot of nasty things to their survival chances. You're still a team player, but you can't help but get some satisfaction yourself as your powers have more of a direct effect than those of other Leaders. There's something about dominating a foe and making him do your bidding that just sounds really cool.


* You are extremely versatile. Want to lead from the front with a shiny blade in hand? You got it. From the back? You got it. With a conductor's baton? You got it. With a bow? You got it. Strumming a lute? You got it. And it doesn't stop there. You are free to dabble in as many other classes' abilities as you'd like to tailor your arsenal as you see fit. Want more healing? You got it. Want things to die faster? You got it. Need more control? You got it.


* You are a master of skills. In fact, only three of the skills in the entire game aren't on your class skill list. Moreover, you start with the second-most number of trained skills after the Rogue. Because you're charismatic, you excel in conversational skill challenges involving skills like Diplomacy and Bluff. And to top it all off, you have the ability to make the skills you didn't train almost as good as the ones you did train.


Ratings system:

Red: AHHHH! My ears! A trap, or just plain garbage.
Purple: A rather sour note. Situational at best.
Black: Tolerable, an acquired taste even.
Blue: A fine selection, indeed.
Sky Blue: Bravissimo! Meaning, you definitely want this.
Gold:  Mandatory. Not just the best. Mandatory. A very rare rating.


This Handbook covers the following sources:

PHB - Player's Handbook
PHB2 - Player's Handbook 2
PHB3 - Player's Handbook 3
AP - Arcane Power
HotF - Heroes of the Feywild
E:HFL - Essentials: Heroes of the Fallen Lands
E:HFK - Essentials: Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms
FRPG - Forgotten Realms Player's Guide
MM - Monster Manual
MM2 - Monster Manual 2
MME - Mordenkainen's Magnificent Emporium
AV - Adventurer's Vault
AV2 - Adventurer's Vault 2
D XXX - Dragon Magazine, issue XXX
DA XX - Dragon Annual, year XX
MOTP - Manual of the Planes
NWCS - Neverwinter Campaign Setting
DSCS - Dark Sun Campaign Setting
PHBH - Player's Handbook Heroes
MP - Martial Power
DP - Divine Power
PP - Primal Power
EPG - Eberron Player's Guide
PHR:T - Player's Handbook Races: Tieflings
HoS - Heroes of Shadow


Glossary

AEDU - At-will, Encounter, Daily, Utility. Used to denote the power structure of all classes in 4e before PHB3 and (especially) Essentials. Both the original Bard and the Skald conform to this power structure.


AoE - Area of effect, often denotes a burst or blast attack.


AP - Action Point


Bard Taxi - A build concept written up by Thaldryn here, which involves the Bard's teleport feats Bardic Wayfarer and Walk Among the Fey and a multiclass to Warlock to take the paragon path Evermeet Warlock. The result is a hyper-teleport-focused build of Bard that exerts impressive control over ally and enemy positioning on any battlefield.


BBEG - Big Bad Evil Guy (typically a Solo or an Elite)


Charmer - A character who takes a preponderance of powers with the Charm keyword and optimizes their use. Bards are well predisposed toward being this type of character.


DPR - Damage per round


ED - Epic destiny


Fake Skald (or F-Skald) - An original Bard (typically melee-inclined) that takes the feat Skald Training and picks up a CHA- or INT-based MBA to emulate the defining characteristics of the Skald subclass while keeping the original Bard's features. Can be a powerful build, but it is also rather feat-intensive.


Feywalker - A Paragon Tier Bard who took the feat Walk Among the Fey to change all his sliding powers into 2D teleportation powers. Bard Taxis are an extreme example of this type.


MAD - Multiple-attribute dependency. Otherwise known as stretching your ability scores too thin. Typically a designator for a build needing three or more ability scores to function.


MBA - Melee basic attack


MID - Multiple-item dependency. Having to use both a weapon and an implement is a cause of this, eating up more of your allocation of finances, feats and other resources.


NAD - Non-AC Defense (Fortitude, Reflex or Will).


OA - Opportunity attack


O-Bard - The original Bard class from the PHB2, used when it is necessary to distinguish it from its subclass, the Skald. 


PP - Paragon path


RBA - Ranged basic attack


THP - Temporary hit points.


Wayfarer - A Bard who took the feat Bardic Wayfarer, generally with the intent to optimize around teleporting. Bard Taxis are an extreme example of this type.



Thanks to:


Everyone who posts and helps out.
Authors of other classes' handbooks, some of which REALLY helped for the multiclassing section.


*** 


NOTE: This handbook will cover both the original Bard from PHB2 and the Skald from HotF. Since both variants use the same AEDU power structure and have access to all the same powers one way or another and only differ in the class features, the Skald could conveniently be folded into this handbook.

Our Profession's Details:

Power Source and Role


Your power source is Arcane, and your role is Leader. You use your talents in the performing arts as a conduit for spells, and you use those spells to spur your allies into action, and to heal or bolster them when the chips are down. The Arcane power source seems to favor the Controller role, and sure enough, you do have a strong Controller element.


If you're a Skald, you are also Martial, in addition to Arcane. The biggest draw of the Skald's Martial designation is the feats that boost your basic attacks, which you'll be using a lot of if you're a Skald.


Buffing - Generally defined as the ability to affect your allies' rolls in a positive way. Generally, you'll be pretty good at this, as a fair number of your powers do confer strong benefits to attack or damage rolls, and a few of them even allow your allies to roll attacks twice. Prescient Bards are amazing at this, as are Valorous Bards once they take a certain PP.


Debuffing - The ability to disrupt the opponent, whether through attack penalties, defense penalties, status effects, or forced movement. This is definitely your realm of expertise; in fact, this is your modus operandi. Many of your powers do one or more of the above, in quite a few cases to multiple enemies. Out of all Leaders, only the Pacifist Cleric challenges you in this category.


Enabling - The ability to let your allies do what they normally couldn't do. This includes positioning, of which your class is the master among Leaders. Many of your powers and features excel at getting your allies into optimal attack position in very short order (and in some cases, forcing your enemies there). The reason you're only "good" at enabling overall, rather than great, is because, on the whole, you're not quite as good at generating extra attacks as the Warlord. (But who is?) That said, you have enough attack-enabling powers to take a respectable second place. And with the right party composition, certain builds, particularly Cunning Bards, can actually be flat-out great at it.


Healing - You're capable at it, but it's not your strong point. Depending on what phase of supplemental material support the Warlord is in compared to you, you're either second-to-last or dead-last among Leaders in this category.


Survivability - You're arguably the most important part of the party, so you want to be able to stay upright. Cunning and Valorous Bards will be decent at this; Cunning because of a good AC potential and Valorous because of the high number of healing surges they'll get. Prescient Bards are the worst in this category, but since they'll stay at range almost exclusively, it won't matter too much.


Secondary Roles

Controller - Some argue that you could fill in for a full-time Controller completely. While I wouldn't go quite that far (not without at least some light multiclassing), you definitely excel here. Indeed, many of your powers and abilities seem to serve both Leader and Controller roles simultaneously. Much of what you do lies in the vicious status effects, forced movement and penalties you inflict, in some cases to multiple enemies at once. At later levels, you might start laying down serious saving throw penalties with your powers for even more effective battlefield control, both for yourself and even perhaps for a more "dedicated" Controller in the party.


Defender - Valorous Bards, with their high CON and number of healing surges, could fill in this role somewhat, particularly if they actually take a multiclass feat for a Defender class that gives some sort of marking mechanic to them. Cunning Bards and Prescient Bards aren't likely to step in this role, though.


Striker - With the advent of the Skald material and the powers that work off basic attacks (which means charging, a Striker's favorite at-will tactic), you're marginally better at this than you were before, but still not great at it unless you do some radical multiclassing. Your class still doesn't have enough self-damage boosts to be considered anything beyond mediocre here.


 


Self-Styled: The Foundations of All Bards


Baseline mechanics

All Bards, Skalds included, start with the following statistics and proficiencies: 


Hit Points: 12 + CON score at 1st level, 5 gained per level. Standard figures for a Leader, which is adequate.


Healing Surges: 7 + CON mod. About average.


Proficiencies: Aside from all simple weapons, you're trained in the longsword, scimitar and shortsword. Decent, if a bit disappointing that the rapier isn't on that list. Also of note is training in all military ranged weapons; that's important for some of you. You're trained in all light armors as well as chainmail; that's just fine for some of you, while others of you might have wanted more. You're also proficient in light shields. Your implement proficiency is wands, which can be good, but isn't the best (i.e. weapon).


Defense Bonuses: +1 to Reflex and Will. Solid.




Bard Class Features


What O-Bards and Skalds Have in Common

Regardless of whether you're playing the original 4e Bard from the PHB2 or the Skald from HotF, you can count on having the following features:


Skill Versatility (PHB2): +1 to all untrained skills. Nice.


Song of Rest (PHB2): Charisma-mod healing bonus at the end of a short rest for healing surge use, giving your party more efficient use of resources.


Words of Friendship (PHB2): Per-encounter boost of a Diplomacy check. With your high Charisma, you're likely to be a party face (if not THE face), so this one's always good in skill challenges.


 

O-Bard Features
 

Bardic Training (PHB2): Ritual Caster for free and a book of rituals. Some of those Bard-specific rituals are pretty damn good. Moreover, you even get to cast a Bard ritual or two (or three) per day without any components.


Bardic Virtue: Basically your main build decision within the O-Bard chassis, and it can be a key advantage vis a vis the Skald.


Virtues


Virtue of Cunning (PHB2): Once per round, slide an ally who got missed by an attack a square as a free action. The distance at which this works is based on your Intelligence. This one can help set up flanks, or just get an ally out of immediate danger. The trigger is likely to happen every single round in combat, especially if you inflict hit penalties on your enemies, easily making it the virtue that gets the most action in a fight. In Paragon Tier, this one can get even better for melee allies who took Agile Opportunist, granting them some immediate action attacks. While this Virtue does seem to be biased toward implement usage (and indeed, an implement-only Bard is almost always of this Virtue), there are also some predominantly weapon-attacking Bards who can rock this Virtue as well (Eladrin, in particular). A Cunning Bard will also make the best use of Bard rituals thanks to his/her Intelligence.


Virtue of Valor (PHB2): When an ally within 5 squares bloodies or kills an enemy, you can give him a decent amount of temporary hit points (1/3/5 + CON mod). The value of this varies from battle to battle; it's good in fights with several standard enemies or minions, but not so great in fights against Elites and Solos. You also can't really control who gets the benefit. Still, at least having Constitution as a secondary stat helps you live longer, and you do get access to an incredible PP. A Valorous Bard is most likely to mix it up in melee and is a prime candidate for a Fake Skald build.


Virtue of Prescience (AP): This Virtue works once per encounter, unlike the others that can happen every round. As an immediate interrupt, if an enemy hits your ally, you boost your ally's targeted defense by your Wisdom modifier, which can make the enemy miss that attack. Pretty solid benefit, and it does get good feat support, including a lovely offensive use of it in Paragon. Unfortunately, this virtue has the indirect shortcoming of requiring Wisdom to fully benefit. Since your main attack stat is Charisma, which also happens to govern Will defense, this means you're only going to have one good non-AC defense (NAD). A Prescient Bard is most likely to use a ranged weapon.


Majestic Word (PHB2): Your version of the per-encounter healing ability that all Leaders get, and it's easily among the best of its kind. Aside from the healing figures, it slides the target (you or your ally) a square, helping setting up flanks easier, getting a vulnerable member of the party out of an enemy's melee range, getting allies out of grabs, and even triggering Agile Opportunist from a melee ally who took that. If you want, you also have an option (via a feat) to turn the slide from this into a teleport, which opens up its own avenue of optimization.


Multiclass Versatility (PHB2): You can multiclass with as many different classes as you want. Pretty obvious what the possibilities are here, and another big plus point when comparing to the Skald.


 

Skald Features

Deceptive Duelist (HotF): Fully Charisma-based MBAs (this means attack AND damage) when you're using a one-handed weapon (typically a shortsword, longsword or, if you spend a feat, rapier). Very convenient, and it saves you the need to splurge a feat on getting an MBA.


Master of Story and Song (HotF): Essentially, this works out to an extra Lv. 1 daily power that you get to keep for the rest of your career. And you don't have to switch daily powers out of your arsenal when you reach the levels that other characters have to (e.g. Lv. 15 and above). Pretty tame feature, if you ask me, but I imagine there might be a few cases where this can be convenient.


Skald's Aura (HotF): The signature feature of the Skald. This encounter aura 5, which you should pop at the start of every combat, works as the Skald's healing mechanic in place of Majestic Word, and it's one that is quite distinct from other Leader classes in 4e. Namely, it lets your allies (and you) heal themselves with their own minor actions if they're in your aura, freeing up your minor actions for other things over the course of a combat. It also lets your allies heal themselves if you are incapacitated (e.g. dazed, stunned, dominated, etc.). The tactical advantages of this are quite apparent. However, the key downside of this is that the aura is forever at 5; the range on this does not increase as the heals of other Leaders do. In addition to being the healing mechanic, Skald's Aura serves as the conduit for certain at-will and daily powers (originating with the Skald) that provide allies offensive boosts. NOTE: A feat called Skald Training (HotF) allows an O-Bard to trade in Majestic Word for this. The implications of this will be discussed below. 




Skald: Real or Fake? 


When perusing the Skald's features above, you were tipped off to the fact that the Skald's two key features, the Charisma-based MBA and Skald's Aura, are indeed poachable by the O-Bard with a couple of feats. And indeed, combining the Skald's key features with the advantages of the O-Bard seems like having your cake and eating it, too, and it seems quite powerful. However, there are several other factors to consider before rushing to the conclusion that the Fake Skald is hands-down superior all the time. This sub-section will go over the plusses and minuses of the O-Bard "Fake Skald" and an actual Skald in detail for a convenient comparison.


Fake Skald, Plusses and Minuses

(+) Rituals, including the Bard-specific ones, all for free.
(+) Multiclass Versatility, allowing you to multiclass with as many classes as you want.
(+) Bardic Virtue, including Cunning's many tricks and Valor's War Chanter PP.

(-) Down two feats in your build when comparing to the real Skald (Skald Training, an MBA feat).
(-) Related to above, only a couple of races can get full CHA-modifier on damage for their MBAs. Others are either stuck with Melee Training, which only grants half CHA-modifier to damage, or have to pump INT and get Swordmage MC and Intelligent Blademaster.
(-) Your secondary stat is locked into the one that corresponds with your Virtue.
(-) Related to above, your only option for a ranged Fake Skald is INT along with CHA, and using a Farbond Spellblade for RBAs. Not knocking the Farbond Spellblade, but I'm sure some of you would rather have had a Frost Dagger.
(-) Want MBA-boosting feats such as Deft Blade? You need to multiclass Martial, which isn't necessarily restrictive for you thanks to Multiclass Versatility, but it still costs yet another extra feat the real Skald doesn't have to pay.


Real Skald, Plusses and Minuses

(+) Up at least two feats on a Fake Skald (and in many cases, even more).
(+) Since you're Martial already, you have instant access to MBA-boosting feats like Deft Blade.
(+) Your MBA will always do full CHA-modifier damage.
(+) Your secondary stat can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. This is of particular importance to ranged Skalds (who want a high DEX). And in addition, it's possible to just not care about a true secondary stat, making a starting CHA 20 very much a viable option for a melee Skald (O-Bards, Fake Skalds included, need a strong secondary).

(-) No rituals without a feat, and even if you spend the feat on them, you won't ever be as good at them as the Fake Skald.
(-) No Virtues, no Cunning's tricks, no War Chanter.
(-) Can only multiclass with one other class.


General and Slightly Random Conclusions

- If you're looking for ranged-weapon Skald action, you (probably) want to be a real Skald.


- If you want to start with a natural 20 CHA for maximum attack rating, you're better off as a real Skald. 


- Half-Elves (via Versatile Master and Dilletante) and Tieflings (via Paladin MC and Wrath of the Crimson Legion) make the best Fake Skalds thanks to fully powered CHA-based MBAs.


- Despite its feat-intensiveness, a Half-Elf or Tiefling Valorous Fake Skald/War Chanter looks pretty damn sexy.


- A Cunning Fake Skald taking Swordmage MC and Intelligent Blademaster is also quite alluring, but even more feat-intensive than the Valorous build, since Virtue of Cunning has more must-take feats. Intelligent Blademaster works with RBAs from a Farbond Spellblade, so if you want a viable ranged Fake Skald, there you go.


 


Natural Talents: Ability Scores


Bards may have the wackiest ability score configurations in all of 4e. The value of their stats -- other than Charisma, of course -- are heavily build-dependent. One build's dump stat is another's secondary, or at the very least one that will qualify them for a multiclass feat that they'll want. You'll see that this list reflects the diversity among Bard builds in this respect. The arrival of the Skald has thrown this into even more chaos, since Skalds can literally pick any secondary stat they want, and several of their choices for such are very much viable.


Strength: Prescient and Valorous Bards may actually want to put a decent score in this to wear better heavy armor than chain (13 qualifies for scale). Most Cunning Bards, on the other hand, will rely on their wits for their armor class and can get away just fine with being girly men, multiclassing considerations notwithstanding.
(Recommended start: 8-13, before racial adjustments)


Constitution: The unquestioned secondary for a Valorous Bard. However, none of you want to ignore it completely. If you want an expanded crit range with implements in Epic Tier, you'll need to make sure you hit 15 in this by then. Even that aside, no one wants to take a penalty to starting hit points and healing surges, and many of you will want to be on the positive side of the ledger here if at all possible.
(Recommended start: 10-16, before racial adjustments)


Dexterity: This stat is LITERALLY all over the place. It ranges from a co-primary for some Skalds, namely those who want to use their powers with a ranged weapon, to about as close to a universal dump stat as an O-Bard can have. But even O-Bards may have a reason to have a decent score here for multiclass purposes, and even if that's not the case, an O-Bard should find another, more suitable dump stat if at all possible, as a penalty to initiative is just not fun.
(Recommended start: 8-13, before racial adjustments. Ranged weapon Skalds want this at 16 before racial adjustments.


Intelligence: The unquestioned secondary for a Cunning Bard (and for some builds, notably Resourceful Magicians and Cunning Fake Skalds, this might even be a co-primary). Even if you're not Cunning, you don't want to dump this completely. Many of your rituals use an Arcana check, which is governed by how learned you are. Ironically for Skalds, while their class description in HotF nominally lists Intelligence as their secondary stat, they have easily the least use for it and can actually get away with dumping this if it suits their build, since they won't be using rituals.
(Recommended start: 10-16, before racial adjustments. Skalds, however, can actually dump this at 8 if that suits them.)


Wisdom: The secondary stat for a Prescient Bard. For everyone else, this is typically a safe dump stat (again, multiclassing notwithstanding).
(Recommended start: 8-16, before racial adjustments). 


Charisma: This one is non-negotiable. Period. Quite simply, all of you, whether O-Bard or Skald, will make your living off of your good looks and olive oil voice. And by living, I mean all attack rolls most of you will ever make, as well as being the backbone of some of your class features and utility powers. (OK, some Skalds can technically use another main attack stat instead of Charisma, but such builds deprive themselves of many of the Bard's top-flight powers by doing so, so I don't recommend it.)
(Recommended start: 16-18, before racial adjustments).


 


Modes of Development: Ability Score Arrays


16, 14, 14, 13, 10, 8: Known as the most well-rounded stat line. Charisma is your highest stat, and you have both a solid secondary and tertiary stat. Even your quaternary can help you qualify for a multiclass feat or other things at Heroic Tier. Like with all other classes, you can't go wrong with this array.


16, 16, 12, 12, 10, 8 (or 16, 16, 13, 11, 10, 8): Charisma and your relevant secondary stat get equal, intensive focus. A third and fourth stat may be good enough to qualify for some feats if you need to. The best array if you place a premium on your Virtue benefit and the riders on your powers. Also the array of choice for ranged Skalds (CHA/DEX).


18, 13, 13, 10, 10, 8: For those either going for the starting natural 20 in Charisma, or for those races with bonuses to a secondary and a tertiary stat. Either way, it's the array used for maximum attack bonus potential, so you can hit more often. This choice tends to be better for pure melee Skalds than for O-Bards, since such Skalds don't have any use for a real secondary stat.


18, 12, 12, 12, 10, 8: Variant of above. To make this one work, you'll want to be a race who either has bonuses to Charisma and your chosen secondary stat, or to your designated secondary and tertiary stats.  Racial bonuses will help soften the blows to those stats, and you'll get an appreciable quaternary stat while still going for maximum attack bonus.

Artists Born, not Made: Races


Cliffs Notes version: You really can't go wrong with any race that has a Charisma bonus. Tieflings, Pixies and Satyrs, especially, are incredible for multiple Bard builds; Tieflings excel as Cunning Bards and Valorous Fake Skalds; Pixies are terrific Cunning Bards and ranged Skalds, and Satyrs also shine as ranged Skalds as well as Valorous Bards. Half-Elves are also tops among Valorous Bards, including the Fake Skald option. Dragonborn rock as especially durable Valorous Bards (but not so much Fake Skalds). Other prime Cunning Bard races are Eladrin and Gnomes, while Devas, Kalashtars and Hamadryads are the best Prescients. More superlative ranged Skalds can be found among the Halflings, Drow and Revenants.


PHB

Dragonborn (PHB/E:HFK): Go with some extra Constitution to go with your natural Charisma and you'll make the most durable Valorous Bard out there, with your CON modifier adding to your healing surge value.


Dwarf (PHB/E:HFL): A marginal Prescient or Valorous Bard. Only the bonus to the relevant secondary stat and the minor-action second wind keep you from being completely hopeless. Don't even think about being Cunning.


Eladrin (PHB/E:HFL): Well, well, welcome to the club. Now that you can opt to be charismatic instead of quick, and still have all your smarts, you're as good a Cunning Bard as anyone. Fey Step is a huge mobility asset, Trance is awesome for adventuring, the extra Will defense and racial bonus to Arcana are always welcome, and you even get a non-class trained skill for free with that Education of yours. This race also easily makes the most of Swordmage multiclassing (a practical necessity among O-Bards) thanks to Eladrin Swordmage Advance; with that feat, an Eladrin taking Skald-type powers that trigger off his MBAs will make such powers scream like no other can. And finally, with the Sun Elf variant, you can even get proficiency in orbs and staffs for free, which can be quite a boost to pure implement-based Bards thanks to their awesome Expertise feats.


Elf (PHB/E:HFL): Elven Accuracy saves this race from being hopeless. And even then, an Elf should only consider being a Prescient or Cunning Bard.


Half-Elf (PHB/E:HFK): Second to none as a Valorous Bard, and just a damn good Bard race in general thanks to Dilletante. Versatile Master in Paragon Tier makes the Dilletante power a true at-will. Also note that the feat Combat Virtuoso lets you select a Dilletante power that uses ANY attack stat and use your Charisma for attack rolls (not damage, though) with it.


Recommended Dilletante Powers

Astral Seal (Cleric) (DP): Implement attack vs. Reflex with a +2 bonus, and on hit it debuffs all  an enemy's defenses by -2 and grants CHA-based healing to the first ally who hits it. Amazing at-will that even manages to outclass a couple of Bard melee-at-wills in similar functions, but done at range. Perfect with Combat Virtuoso.


Demoralizing Strike (Ardent) (PHB3): In Heroic and Paragon, this is pretty much strictly better than your own Guiding Strike, since you debuff all defenses. It doesn't get the extra [W] of damage in Epic, but that's a small price to pay. A great setup power through and through.


Dragonfrost (Sorcerer) (PHB2): If you're looking for an implement-based ranged basic attack, this is the way to go. 10-square range, decent damage, and it can push the enemy a square if it hits.


Eldritch Strike (Warlock) (PHBH): If you're looking for a CHA-based melee basic attack, this is simply as good as it gets. Aspiring Fake Skalds, or anyone looking to use the basic attack-triggered powers like Dimensional Step or Flash of Distraction should look no further. It even slides the enemy a square if it hits. Perfect for outfitting an MBA with fun stuff like the White Lotus feat line (D 374), Quickened Spellcasting (AP), Arcane Admixture (AP) and all the goods that feat opens up, etc. Take the Melee Training feat to tide you over in Heroic Tier, then retrain that feat for Versatile Master when you hit Lv. 11.


Sword Burst (Swordmage) (PHB): Best abused by a Cunning Bard, who depending on build may not have to take Combat Virtuoso. It's one of the  best AoE at-wills in the game, and certain feat combinations can increase its power even further.


Halfling (PHB/E:HFL): A little personality and some quickness make for a terrific ranged Skald and a decent O-Bard as well. The Second Chance power is quite nice.


Human (PHB/E:HFL): Train in one thing and one thing only: Charisma. Bonus feat is very nice if you plan on multiclassing, in particular, the bonus trained skill and defense bonuses are good, and the choice between a third at-will or a huge per-encounter bonus to an attack or save round it out. Makes for a solid, if not spectacular, Bard of any sort.


Tiefling (PHB/E:HFK): Along with the Gnome and Eladrin, a top Cunning Bard race. Double-stat synergy on top of some incredible feat support, particularly for Charmers, make this race hard to beat. For that matter, you can opt for Constitution instead of smarts to be a fine Valorous Bard; you're especially a grand choice for a Valorous Fake Skald/War Chanter if you MC Paladin and take Wrath of the Crimson Legion.


PHB2

Deva (PHB2): With a choice of Charisma in play, on top of innate Wisdom, you're all of a sudden arguably the best Prescient Bard out there. Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes is an amazing racial power, and level-scaling necrotic and radiant resistance and extra defense against bloodied enemies certainly don't hurt, either.


Gnome (PHB2): One of the best Cunning Bard races. Where to begin? Hits the books and can choose to win the friends. Fade Away. Racial bonus to Arcana. The total package here. Just take a multiclass feat that lets you train in Stealth and you'll be set for life.


Goliath (PHB2): You might be able to pass as a Valorous or Prescient Bard. Might being the operative word.


Half-Orc (PHB2/E:HFK): Yeah, you're so not cut out for this. Please don't hurt me.


Shifter, Longtooth (PHB2): Longtooth Shifting, with its extra damage and regeneration, keep you afloat, mostly as a Prescient Bard thanks to being wise.


Shifter, Razorclaw (PHB2): Quick and wise just like an Elf, but without anything else. Also worse for the job than your Longtooth counterpart.


PHB3

Githzerai (PHB3): A passable Prescient Bard if you decide to be smart in addition to your innate wisdom, much like the Deva. Iron Mind is a solid defensive power. You're not good for any other Virtue, though.


Minotaur (PHB3): Uh, no.


Shardmind (PHB3): Wait, crystals can sing? However they do it, this is another great Cunning Bard race, with the brains and the personality. Living Construct is a great set of adventuring benefits, Telepathy is neat and potentially useful, and Shard Swarm is a solid racial encounter power. Easily up there with the Gnome and the Tiefling.


Wilden (PHB3): You can pass as a Prescient or Valorous Bard with the relevant secondary stat for both and some pretty good racial powers. You're likely to favor Voyage of the Ancients for your Nature's Aspect.


Other rulebooks/Dragon

Changeling/Doppelganger (EPG): You're naturally charismatic, which means I like you already. You can pick up the extra smarts if you want to be Cunning, or extra reflexes if you want to be a ranged Skald. Changeling Disguise is a whole lot of fun (make sure you train Bluff).


Drow (FRPG/E:HFK): Amazing as a ranged Skald if you go for the personality on top of your quickness. Lolthtouched powers, Trance and Darkvision are all very solid benefits for all Bards.


Genasi (FRPG): Might fit in as a Cunning or Valorous Bard, but hardly spectacular at it.


Gnoll (D 367): Just no synergy at all.


Hamadryad (HotF): This female-only fey race's innate Wisdom and option for Charisma work out perfectly for Prescient Bards. Racial bonuses to saves against the three heavy hitters (daze, dominate, stun), a solid racial power that can be used to gain combat advantage or resist damage and a Trance-type feature round it out.


Kalashtar (EPG): Naturally charismatic, you've always been a prime candidate for the Virtue of Prescience with some extra wisdom on hand. You can also now choose to be smart, rather than wise, and be a fine Cunning Bard. The solid Bastion of Mental clarity, telepathy and the ability to save against dazed and dominated at the start of your turns are all very welcome abilities.


Pixie (HotF): It's almost unfair how godly a Cunning Bard this tiny little critter can be. It's no slouch as a ranged Skald, either, if you choose quickness over brains. You've got a fly speed, and did I mention that you can make an ally fly for a turn as well every encounter? One particular racial utility (at Lv. 10) even lets you make the whole party take to the skies for a round. A couple of its racial feats are also quite appealing.


Revenant (D 376): With some Charisma on top of your innate Dexterity, you're a prime choice for a ranged Skald, and a good choice for a Bard in general. The biggest sell is the ability to swipe another race's feat support, and even their racial powers via racial Soul feats, which can have some very interesting results. And then there's the insane survivability tricks of this race.


Satyr (HotF): This male-only fey race makes for a brilliant Valorous Bard (if choosing sturdiness) or ranged Skald (if sharpening those fast-twitch muscles). A racial power that slides an enemy you hit every encounter is quite nice for positional setups, and Pleasant Recovery is a neat thing to have when resting.


Shadar-Kai (D 372): Shadow Jaunt is a solid encounter power, and the choice of INT is good for a Cunning Bard, but other than that you don't have a whole lot to offer.


Shade (HoS): I don't care if you can have perfect stat bonuses for a Cunning Bard. The loss of a healing surge and the quite frankly wretched racial power are irreconcilable differences, plain and simple. Just a failure of a race through and through.


Vryloka (HoS): The penalty to healing surge value when bloodied is annoying in early Heroic Tier but almost inconsequential after. Makes you wonder why it's there in the first place. With that out of the way, there's a lot to like here. The Charisma bonus is naturally welcome, the speed 7 is sweet and you get a potent and versatile encounter racial utility that can give you extra mobility, a THP buffer or a boost to attack rolls. Solid choice, particularly for a ranged Skald.


Warforged (EPG): Might be able to pass as a Cunning Bard if you choose brains over brawn. Living Construct and Unsleeping Watcher at least help your case to stay alive.


Monsters (at DM's Discretion)

Bladeling (MOTP): Blech. Another poor-man's Elf.


Bugbear (MM): lol


Bullywug (MM2): Nope.


Duergar (MM2): A Dwarf with twisted morals, a crappy racial power, and none of the redeeming qualities.


Githyanki (MM): Sorry.


Goblin (MM): Goblin Tactics is awesome, and you've also got some personality. You'll do well.


Hobgoblin (MM): Just like a Half-Elf, you can win friends and you're durable. But you don't have Dilletante. Still, you're good enough.


Kenku (MM2): An interesting choice thanks to Mimicry. Personality helps you a lot.


Kobold (MM): At-will minor-action shifting is awesome. A passable Valorous Bard.


Orc (MM): No.



Setting Your Story Straight:

Recommended Themes
 


Devil's Pawn (NWCS): Hellfire and Brimstone is a very handy encounter power for debuffing the attacks and the defenses of enemies within 2 squares of you. Fire resistance at Lv. 10 is nice, too.


Fey Beast Tamer (HotF): You get a level-scaling beast companion that has half your maximum hit points. And at Lv. 5 said companion grants combat advantage to enemies next to it automatically, flanking or not. A strong and flavorful theme.


Guardian (D 399): Guardian's Counter lets you play Defender once per encounter, taking a hit meant for an ally and responding with a basic attack (this can be melee or ranged) against the perpetrator. The basic attack part is of particular importance if you're packing the encounter powers that trigger off of those. Potentially enabling out of turn is truly a beautiful thing.


Harper Agent (NWCS): Gives you a Harper Pin with an encounter power letting use one of three blessings, all of which are pretty sweet (correcting a missed attack roll, reducing the damage of a hit against you by a nice level-scaling amount, or rerolling a failed save). You basically choose the order in which you get them for your first 10 levels.


Iliyanbruen Guardian (NWCS): For Eladrin only, this one lets you do nice things like take an ally with you when you Fey Step and, at Lv. 10, you can even do this as a minor action. Melee Cunning Bards who MC Swordmage, take Eladrin Swordmage Advance and load up on Dimensional Step powers will want to consider this one a lot more strongly.


Noble Adept (DSCS): Gain a psionic power point, which you can use on the awesome encounter power you get from this theme to provide a prodigious boost to your or an ally's attack, save or skill check. Perfect for a Leader such as yourself.


Order Adept (D399): The ability to take Wizard utilities freely can work out nicely. The +1 power bonus to Will at Lv. 10 is welcome, too.



Skill is Power: Skills


You're automatically trained in Arcana. You should definitely reserve one of your trained choices for Perception. After that, you've got some leeway.


Class Skills

Arcana: This skill is a required part of the trade to learn, so it doesn't matter what I think of it (although it's obvious that, for Bards, I do think very highly of it). It's used in rituals and knowledge checks.


Acrobatics: Helps you escape grabs and restraints, balance, reduce fall damage. Very versatile skill.


Athletics : Also helps you escape grabs, as well as climb, jump and swim.


Bluff: Can be flat-out essential depending on your build or race, in which it helps certain powers function. Other than that it's great for conversations. You're guaranteed to be good at it because of your high Charisma.


Diplomacy: Between being eminently winsome, which you must be to be a Bard in the first place, and having a class feature power that works with this skill, you're likely to be the party face. So this one is kinda important.


Dungeoneering: Low on the totem pole in the grand scheme of things. Only consider it at all if you're Prescient.


Heal: You may or may not need this. If you're the only ritual caster in the party, you'll be more likely to need it. A Prescient Bard makes the best use of it.


History: Knowledge skill. Worth a look from a Cunning Bard.


Insight: Counters Bluff, which can save you. Especially good if you're Prescient, but worthy of training regardless.


Intimidate: The combat application is arguably broken. You'll definitely be good at it, and aside from that it's also used in conversations a lot.


Nature: Knowledge skill, used in some rituals. Best used by a Prescient Bard, or any Bard who fancies himself the Celtic sage of yore.


Perception : Counters Stealth, which is kinda important. Also just generally useful. Consider this one essential.


Religion: A Cunning Bard might learn the ways of the divine if no Divine characters travel with him. Counts as a knowledge skill and is used in a lot of rituals.


Streetwise: Often comes in handy in skill challenges, and you're naturally good at it.


Other skills

Endurance: Helps you get over diseases and generally survive in a lot of adverse conditions. Easily picked up with a multiclassing feat of Fighter, Ranger, Warlord or Barbarian.


Stealth: Some of your invisibility powers affect you, so you may want to train this. Especially if you're a Gnome. Avenger, Ranger and Rogue all have multiclass feats that train this.


Thievery: Can come in handy.


 


Instruments of Choice:

Weapons and Implements


Weapons

Bards are very particular about their weapons. They prefer weapons that hit often, since they like to make sure their party-starting powers work in combat, and if they can somehow fold implement usage into them, even better.


Dagger: Perhaps THE best choice for a ranged Skald, and a fine choice for Prescients as well. +3 proficiency and a range of 5 (which perfectly coincides with the coverage of the Skald's Aura). As it's a light blade, it gets awesome feat support that helps it hit even more accurately, such as Nimble Blade and (for Skalds) Deft Blade. And finally, you can use this one as an implement if you take the Arcane Implement Proficiency feat or a Swordmage multiclass feat. Or if you're just that cheap for feats, Songblades are also available in dagger form.


Longbow/Shortbow: Prescients tend to default to this one. It's not optimal (+2 proficiency), but since Bards start automatically proficient with these, it's worth mentioning. Shortbows are for the small races; Longbows are for everyone else. Songbows, which can be used as implements for Bard class and Bard paragon path powers, come in this weapon type.


Longsword: A prime choice for a Valorous Bard, especially since you're not automatically proficient with the rapier. You get that all-important +3 proficiency bonus, important for your role as a Leader so you get the maximum party favors from your attack powers. Songblades come in this type of weapon, or you can easily use any one of these as a general implement with a Swordmage multiclass feat or Arcane Implement Proficiency. You're automatically proficient with the longsword. 


Shortsword: This is the best melee light blade with which you're automatically proficient, and as such it is, hands-down, the weapon of choice for a melee-focused Skald. You're only one die size down from the rapier, which you shouldn't sweat too much since you're not a primary Striker. The shortsword has a +3 proficiency like all good light blades do, and it benefits from the likes of Nimble Blade and Deft Blade. And, yes, it is open to AIP and Swordmage multiclassing for implement usage.


Superior Crossbow: If you're a Prescient or a ranged Skald who wants to spare the proficiency feat and the Speed Loader feat to use it, it's a damn good one for sure. +3 proficiency and as much range as a longbow (and in the Skald's case, they'll appreciate the large damage die vis a vis the dagger). Songbows also come in this weapon type.


Implements

Dagger/Longsword/Shortsword: Skalds and Valorous Bards may want to pick up the occasional implement-based attack, and what better to use as their implement than their weapon? It reduces MID -- and your expenses -- to go this route. You can multiclass Swordmage or take AIP to use any blade for all implement powers. (Or, if you're cheap for feats, use a Songblade.) Really a good option for any Bard looking to use a variety of spells, both weapon- and implement-based.


Longbow/Shortbow/Superior Crossbow: Generally the choice of Prescients and a few ranged Skalds (through Songbows), but not without their limitations. Bows cannot be subject to AIP, thus making multiclassing more difficult for those Bards.


Musical Instrument: Musical instruments double as a focus for your rituals, so early on this helps reduce MID. The highest-level Bard rituals only require a 1,000 gp instrument (Lv. 5 item), however, so that reason falls off around late Heroic Tier. That said, some of the higher-level instruments have some pretty good daily powers that are enhanced by your Song of Rest, so it's not a total waste to stick to them.


Wand: We like to call them conductor batons in our trade. If you're looking to turn your implement-based attack powers up to fortissimo, this is as good as most of you will have by default. Battle Song Expertise works with wands, giving your forced movement powers from your class (and there are quite a few) an extra square. And only wands benefit from Bard Implement Expertise in Epic Tier for expanded crit range if you want that. If you're purely implement-based, you'll want to get an Accurate version as well.


Orb: Requires most of you to multiclass Wizard (a common MC). If you're an Eladrin (Sun Elf), congratulations, you get this for free, and it's an upgrade over wands thanks to its better Expertise feat, which adds an extra square of forced movement to ALL applicable attack powers (whether from your class or not). Like with wands, you'll also want to get an Accurate version.


Staff: Requires an MC feat, being a Sun Elf Eladrin or taking White Lotus Dueling Expertise. This one is another upgrade over the default wand thanks to its amazing Expertise feat, which prevents all enemy OAs for using your ranged and area powers in the thick of a melee. And if you want to pick up the odd melee power in your repertoire, congrats, your staff is also a reach weapon with the Expertise. Again, you'll want an Accurate version.

Same Old Song: At-Will Powers


Powers have been separated by melee weapon, ranged weapon and implement powers for your convenience.


Pretty much any Bard, and unquestionably any pure implement-attacking Bard, should pick up Staggering Note. The other at-will depends on your main method of attack. A pure implement attacker should typically take Vicious Mockery as their second at-will, a melee attacker Guiding Strike and a ranged weapon attacker (not like they have any other choice) Jinx Shot


Note that powers designated "Skald's Aura" require that you have that power, either by being a Skald or by taking the feat Skald Training. They work their effects when you hit with a basic attack (this can be either melee or ranged). Among the at-will powers of that category, Song of Serendipity is overall the best. I would recommend to Skalds (real and fake) to take one of these powers, then as your second at-will take something that doesn't use the aura (preferably Staggering Note).


Melee Weapon

Guiding Strike (PHB2): Debuff the defense of your choice by -2 if it hits. Always handy. If you're not a Skald but still plan on spending ANY time at all in melee, regardless of your Virtue, this is likely to be your staple. NOTE: Half-Elves might opt to take Demoralizing Strike as their Dilletante, in which case they can retrain out of this when they hit Paragon Tier.


War Song Strike (PHB2): This one's pretty much just for Valorous Bards who have the CON to dish out a healthy amount of temporary hit points to potentially the whole party for attacking your victim. This one tends to be used more often in mop-up rounds, and it's good enough for that purpose, at least.


Ranged Weapon

Jinx Shot (AP): Right now it's the only ranged weapon at-will for a Bard. Luckily, it's solid. The knocking prone part is especially handy against flyers.


Implement

Cutting Words (PHBH): Attacks Will and pulls the target 2 squares on hit. It has the Psychic keyword, too, which has great support from feats like Psychic Lock. Good for pulling back-row enemies closer to your front-line allies.


Misdirected Mark (PHB2): Situational. Only useful at all with a Battlemind or Warden as a Defender, and even then, you'd only want to use it when an enemy is within range of their punishments and unmarked. It does attack Reflex, just to be different, but overall, this power isn't going to be any more than a Human's third at-will, if that. NOTE: If your Defender is a Fighter, Staggering Note is better in every possible way.


Staggering Note (D 383): And here we come to arguably THE Bard's staple power, one that makes for a terrific combination of positioning and attack enabling. The strength of this power begins to illuminate why the best Bards, even those who use weapon attacks, still need to have credible implement attack capability. On hit, this one grants a free MBA to an ally and also pushes the enemy two squares (the ally can attack at any point before, during or after the push), along with your CHA-modifier worth of damage. This attacks Will, which tends to be an easier defense to hit, has good range (10), and has the Thunder keyword, which gets excellent feat support (Mark of Storm and its slide, for one) and item support (*cough* Wand of Thunderous Anguish *cough*) for even more fun.


Vicious Mockery (PHB2): For purely implement-attacking Bards (typically Cunning), this will typically be their preferred second at-will after Staggering Note, and for very good reason. Attacks Will, unconditionally debuffs the enemy's attacks by -2 if it hits, and sports the Psychic keyword (hello, Psychic Lock) and the Charm keyword. This power is especially great to cast on a foe the Defender already has marked, and stacking the mark penalty with this one can make Virtue of Cunning a lot more likely to trigger.


Skald's Aura

Bolstering Speech (HotF): Grant CHA-mod THPs to one ally when you hit. Decent.


Song of Savagery (HotF): +4 power bonus to damage for an ally's next attack after you hit. Doesn't help multi-attacking Strikers a whole lot, and it scales poorly. This is one to avoid.


Song of Serendipity (HotF): +2 power bonus for an ally's next attack roll after you hit. Of all the Skald at-wills, this is the one that stands out as the one to take.


Words of Gravity (HotF): +2 power bonus to all defenses for one ally after you hit. Fair for protecting one ally who needs it.


 


Probationer, Fochlucan,

Mac-Fuirmidh and Doss: Heroic Tier Powers


Lv. 1 Encounter


From the very start, all you Bards will quickly learn the importance of having some sort of functioning implement on hand, even if it happens to be your sword or your bow. The weapon powers aren't necessarily bad here, but the implement-based powers are really where it's at. Blunder for the Cunning, and Shout of Triumph for the Valorous. Victim of the Feywild is also a great universal option.


This is also a level where you get introduced to the powers that work off you hitting with a basic attack (melee or ranged). If you take such powers, one very important thing to keep a lookout for is means of making basic attacks on actions other than your standard. Fortunately there are plenty of ways to get those. At this level, both Lesser Dimensional Step and Lesser Flash of Distraction are very good representatives of this category of powers.


Melee Weapon

Inspiring Refrain (PHB2): Your standard attack/buff allies' attack rolls combo. +1 power bonus for a round. Fair enough.


Ranged Weapon

Firemetal Shot (AP): Funny, it's a ranged weapon attack but its clearly geared toward Cunning Bards. All your allies' attacks for a round inflict your INT-modifier's worth of extra fire damage. Pretty solid for this level.


Prophesied Strike (AP): You or an ally gets to reroll an attack and use either result. Good one.


Implement

Blunder (PHB2): Best in the employ of the Cunning, this one's an excellent positioning and attack enabler right off the bat. Attacks Will and on hit, slides two squares and can set up an accurate MBA follow-up from either yourself or an ally (preferably the most damaging Striker in the party).


Disorienting Ditty (D 383): Attack vs. Will that works best near a melee cluster, with your choice of "safe square" in a flank or next to a Defender. The disincentive of your CHA-mod extra damage isn't too great, though. You really can do better than this.


Fast Friends (PHB2): Nice flavor, but the attack does no damage and the benefits are nothing that the party can't already accomplish with even decent tactics.


Focused Sound (AP): Thunder power that attacks Reflex and sets up 18-20 crits for the whole party for a round. Fair.


Prophetic Action (AP): For the Prescient, but even they have better options here.


Shout of Triumph (PHB2): Geared toward the Valorous, and they can rearrange the battlefield with it. You can reposition your allies in the nice blast 3 area even if you don't hit any enemies. Attacks Fortitude and has the Thunder keyword. In Paragon Tier, a melee-heavy party, all outfitted with Agile Opportunist, can turn this into a beatdown power.


Thunder's Calling (AP): Geared toward the Valorous, this power either lets you slide an enemy next to your waiting melee allies, or failing that, let someone with a good RBA in your party take a shot. Pretty good power, actually, but too bad Shout of Triumph just has to steal its thunder (no pun intended).


Victim of the Feywild (D 387): Got two capable melee allies? Teleport them to flank a foe for free. Fun times for all.


Basic Attack Triggered

Lesser Dimensional Step (HotF): You can teleport yourself and one ally next to the enemy you hit with your basic, preferably into a flank. Overall, its purpose is similar to Victim of the Feywild's except you use your weapon, and you'll usually want a Defender already next to the target. Where this power can really elevate itself is if you can get an MBA on something other than a standard (Eladrin MC Swordmage can get this very early).


Lesser Flash of Distraction (HotF): Daze an enemy after you hit it. Very good to have at this level.


Lesser Ringing Weapon (HotF): Extra thunder damage, combat advantage and concealment negation after you hit. This one's not nearly as good as the others of its type.


 


Lv. 1 Daily


Again, implements are where it's at, and Stirring Shout is grand. Although ranged weapons also have a fine deal going with the out-of-turn Arrow of Warning. This is also your first introduction to Skald's Aura dailies, which typically confer an encounter-long benefit on your party while it's in your aura, and many of these also come with an additional trick you can pull once in the encounter. Out of those, Disruptive Words is probably the best, although the others have their uses.


Melee Weapon

Echoes of the Guardian (PHB2): Same flaws as Misdirected Mark, making this one situational at best.


Slayer's Song (PHB2): The effect lets you set up combat advantage whenever you hit an enemy for the whole encounter. Not bad for this level. Better with a Rogue in the party.


Verse of Triumph (PHB2): +1 power bonus to damage and saves for you and allies within 5 squares, along with some free shifting for killing enemies. Decent.


Ranged Weapon

Arrow of Warning (AP): Tailored toward the Prescient, but it's pretty awesome regardless of Virtue. An immediate interrupt against an enemy attacking an ally that does solid damage on hit. The attack hits often, too, being a weapon-based attack vs. Reflex. And to top it off, if it hits, the ally who got attacked gets a free, more accurate at-will attack against the attacking enemy as well.


Saga of Rivalry (AP): Not optimal for every party or every fight, but if you're traveling with a ranged Striker or two this one sings. Especially in a fight against an Elite Artillery or Controller. This one will give your ranged allies a nice little advantage in missile warfare while the automatic damage chips the enemy's health away until a save. Having your front-line allies hold helps even more.


Implement

Burdening Dirge (D 374): The effect, which lasts for the encounter, makes the enemy slow down whenever an ally hits. Good to cast on a dangerous foe you want a Defender to tie down up front and away from your squishy allies.


Echoing Roar (AP): Best used against an enemy in a fight where concealment and cover are factors. A situational power, but handy when the situation does come up.


Malevolent Mischief (AP): Not a bad one to help keep an enemy near your Defender and away from that Wizard.


Satire of Fortune (AP): Half-damage on miss, and regardless of hit or miss give the next ally who misses a reroll of that attack. Best cast to set up a key round in which your allies unload with their encounter or daily attacks, letting you cover for the first miss that happens. Decent enough.


Sprightly Rhythm (D 383): Close burst 2 vs. Fortitude that pushes targets and lets your allies shift a square. Pretty tame power that doesn't know whether it wants to be a glorified Thunderwave or a map-changer.


Stirring Shout (PHB2): Hit or miss the target, free CHA-mod healing for allies who attack it for the rest of the encounter. Perfect to lay down on that Elite or Solo your party has been saving for last.


Skald's Aura

Cautionary Tale (HotF): Prevents your allies from surrendering CA when flanked, and once per encounter tag on +2d10 damage to a single hit from an ally. In lower Heroic when you get this power, that extra damage is actually pretty good, turning an ally's big-hit 3[W] or 4[W] power into an almost guaranteed one-shot. However, it scales poorly after Lv. 5 or so, so if you do take this one, retrain it once you hit mid-Heroic or thereabouts.


Dirge of the Damned (HotF): Allies in your aura deal more damage, and even more against bloodied enemies. Decent enough for this level.


Disruptive Words (HotF): Make enemies in your aura give up CA and once in the fight, save-ends daze anything that took damage for whatever reason. The best of the aura dailies at this level, and it stays useful longer than the others here.


 


Lv. 2 Utility


Moment of Escape is easily the standout here, being the highly versatile, reliable encounter positioning utility that it is. If for some reason that's not your cup of tea, or your campaign's needs are different, there are a few other pretty solid powers on this list.


Class Powers

Bardic Lore (HotF): One free natural 20 on a knowledge check per day. You probably have better things to use this slot on. 


Beguiling Ballad (D 387): If an enemy hits your ally, use this daily to make that ally disappear in your enemy's eyes until he saves. Plus let the ally teleport a few squares. Pretty good, since it's almost like inflicting a limited save-ends blinding on an enemy without needing an attack roll. It's even better if the ally who got hit is Stealth-trained and you're fighting a solo.


Canon of Avoidance (AP): +2 power bonus to all defenses for an ally of your choice. Sustainable with minor actions, and you can switch the bonuses to another ally if they need it more. Pretty good daily.


Clockwork Precision (AP): This daily can be quite handy for skill challenges. However, keep in mind it uses your standard action, so don't use it in combat even though its effect can apply there.


Concerted Effort (AP): This one uses your standard action for uneven gain. Not impressive even at this level, and beyond worthless after.


Hunter's Tune (PHB2): This one requires so many variables to line up for it to be remotely useful that it's just not worth it.


Inspire Competence (PHB2): A versatile encounter power that's very useful in skill challenges.


Moment of Escape (AP): Slide an ally up to 4 squares with your move action if they need to move more than you do. An excellent per-encounter utility for your entire career, this can do anything from giving an ally a head start in positioning, to getting an immobilized ally out of a bad spot, to freeing a grabbed ally. And in Paragon Tier this gets even nicer for Feywalkers and for any Bards leading a host of Agile Opportunist allies.


Song of Courage (PHB2): +1 power bonus to attack rolls for allies in the burst 5 zone. The zone moves with you and is sustained with minor actions. Good early on, but it does lose some luster after Heroic Tier.


Song of Defense (PHB2): An inferior power to begin with, and Canon of Avoidance completely obsoletes it for similar purposes.


Words of Protective Fate (AP): Most enemies don't have crits you need to worry about.


Class Skill Powers

History


Strategist's Epiphany (PHB3): One per day you stand a pretty good chance of making the entire party go first, particularly if you're Cunning. Always a good option if you're trained in History.


 


Lv. 3 Encounter


This is a level where you start seeing one-round or one-hit buffs you can place on a weapon, and there's one particularly special power in that category in Echoing Weapon, which essentially amounts to an extra attack's worth of damage. Ranged weapon Bards get the fantastic out-of-turn power Rhyme of the Blood-Seeking Blade. Implement users get a fairly good enemy-sliding power in Impelling Force, but could just as easily dip back into Lv. 1, where some great options are still waiting. Melee weapon powers are pretty average for the most part, although the oddball melee Cunning Bard has a pretty neat damage boosting option in Cunning Ferocity.


Special

Unicorn's Charge (D 387): You let an ally of your choice charge a foe, and other allies around that target either get some free healing or a square of teleportation. Pretty nifty, if nothing else.


Melee Weapon

Charger's Call (PHB2): For Valorous Bards. The usefulness of this one depends on party composition. You'll want at least two allies with good charge attacks for this to be useful. It also helps if you rolled a good Initiative.


Cunning Ferocity (PHB2): A rare melee power geared toward the Cunning, and if you're one of those oddball melee Cunning Bards it's actually a pretty impressive damage boost against a single foe. It attacks Reflex for a more sure hit, too. If you're not Cunning, however, you should typically avoid this.


Rally the Spectral Host (D 396): One of the newfangled encounter powers that grant an effect, regardless of the attack hitting or missing. This one surrounds you with an aura 2 that gives allies moderate attack and damage boosts while they're in it. Nothing that'll get the blood up, but decent enough. This one also has the Primal keyword, in addition to your usual Arcane, in the event that should mean anything for your build.


Ranged Weapon

Cruel Fate (AP): Only way this one's gonna work is if you have several allies lined up to tee off on the enemy with daily attacks that roll several large die for the damage. That is to say, almost never. Avoid this one.


Entangling Opening (AP): Weapon attack vs. Will (which means it hits a lot), Psychic keyword and a follow-up hit from an ally knocks the enemy prone. Altogether pretty good.


Rhyme of the Blood-Seeking Blade (AP): An immediate interrupt to an ally's miss that attacks the enemy's Reflex for a more sure hit. And when it hits, the enemy's defenses are all debuffed substantially against your ally's attack; -4 even without the Prescience virtue. Just plain awesome.


Implement

Dissonant Strain (PHB2): Vicious Mockery with a saving throw and minus the Charm keyword and 5 squares' range. Meh, give me something different.


Impelling Force (PHB2): Attacks Fortitude and slides the target up to 5 squares next to an ally. Preferably that scary Defender or melee Striker traveling with you. Good against the more evasive, less burly types of enemies that don't want to be caught in melee, and happen to have a weaker Fortitude.


Recitation of Foreknowledge (AP): Decent. Better if you have a Rogue in the party.


Song of the New Dawn (AP): Not bad for a melee-heavy party, granting them all saves that are likely to succeed.


Weapon Boosts

Chilled Blade (HotF): The affected weapon slows and deals extra cold damage on hit. Good one.


Echoing Weapon (HotF): Neat thing about this power that escapes casual glance: The thunder damage from this weapon buff is NOT classified as "extra damage." Which means the 2d6 damage from this power, which happens whether the buffed attacker hits or misses, is considered a separate incidence. And because the damage triggers off an attack from the weapon you buffed, that means it benefits from all the buffed attacker's damage bonuses that can be applied unlimited times per round. Thus, it practically amounts to a full extra attack's worth of damage from your deadliest weapon-based Striker at the cost of just your minor action! Which is simply gorgeous. (A prime Cunning Bard combo at this level is casting this on the Striker's weapon, followed by Blunder during the same turn.)


Seek Weakness (HotF): This buff lasts until the end of your next turn and applies its CA generation and damage boost to all attacks while it's active. Decent one to cast on a multi-attacking Striker's weapon.


 


Lv. 5 Daily


Another implement-dominant level, and boy, is this level full of win. It'd be almost easier to list the powers you shouldn't consider. But we're focusing on the positive here. Compulsion, Song of Discord and Timeless Trek in Mithrendain are all nothing short of incredible. Some Bards can make a strong case for Satire of Bravery or Tune of Ice and Wind.


Melee Weapon

Word of Mystic Warding (PHB2): If the attack hits, the enemy get a save-ends condition that makes it hurt to approach an ally of your choice. Decent for protecting a squishier member of the party for a time.


Ranged Weapon

Arrow of Ill Omen (AP): The effect gives you a 30% chance of turning one lucky ally's hit into a crit, which is decent. Cast the die when the ally attacks with a daily power full of large dice for the damage.


Implement

Compulsion (AP): On hit, you get to slide the enemy 5 squares every turn, with no restrictions, until he saves. Even if you miss, you get to do that for a turn. Excellent and fun power. Has both the Psychic and Charm keywords, too.


Rhyme of Fire (AP): Extra fire damage against the enemy for the whole party, hit or miss. Not as impressive as some of the other options here, since Fire is one of the more common resistances and less common vulnerabilities. But it's a decent pick.


Satire of Bravery (PHB2): The resident AoE at this level, and it's pretty solid. With good positioning afterwards you can catch the enemies you blasted between a rock and a hard place until they save.


Song of Discord (PHB2): Domination in Heroic Tier? Really? Good times. Hit or miss, you also force the enemy to attack one of his buddies within reach of him. If you hit and get the one-round domination, either make your new puppet attack the same enemy again, or send him walking (or even charging) through your allies' opportunity attacks ... or off a cliff. Has the Charm keyword.


Strictures of Fortune (AP): The effect takes away an enemy's next go-around of a rechargeable power and instead gives you or an ally another use of an encounter power. Good to use in those battles.


Timeless Trek in Mithrendain (D 387): Banishing an enemy from the fight is actually quite powerful, and this amazing power lets you do it save-ends regardless of a hit or miss. In a fight against multiple foes, it effectively reduces the encounter level while the banishment is active, which makes the fight a lot easier. Even in a Solo fight, it can buy your party some time to position themselves for a full offensive onslaught (with readied actions even!).


Tune of Ice and Wind (PHB2): An area burst 1 that slows the enemies (save-ends on hit) and slides your allies 3 squares. A fair amount of map rearrangement potential with this one, and in Paragon Tier this can become a bona-fide beatdown power if you have enough melee allies taking Agile Opportunist. Or an even more sick rearrangement spell if you go Wayfarer.


Vigorous Cadence (AP): The recent errata ripped this one out of your songbook. It's strictly worse than Stirring Shout. Much worse, in fact. Good thing you have so many other great options at this level. And the update still left unanswered the question of what happens when multiple allies are the same distance away from the enemy.


Skald's Aura

Haunting Tune (HotF): Automatic psychic damage to enemies stuck in your aura, but it can't knock those enemies' HPs to 0. It does, however, make near-death enemies run away, possibly suffering your allies' OAs when they run. Fair for this level, but scales poorly after late Heroic. 


Scathing Rebuke (HotF): A self-defense power against enemies with Will defense below average for your level. In practice, I can't imagine this one being worth it.


Song of Hope (HotF): Bonus to skill checks for the whole encounter, and once in the fight you can let an ally roll twice for an attack. Best for encounters that mix combat and skill checks (flying enemies for Athletics, traps for Thievery, etc.)


 


Lv. 6 Utility


Revitalizing Incantation is a crazy healing spell, one Bards had been begging for. Besides that, there's still several other good powers, such as Dramatic Shift, Echoing Steps, Glimpse the Future, Ode to Sacrifice, Synchronicity and, for certain builds and parties, Allegro.


Class Powers

Allegro (PHB2): Daily power that slides you and all allies two squares with your minor action. Not so hot now, but in Paragon Tier, Feywalkers and Bards leading Agile Opportunist-heavy parties will definitely want to look back and consider this one.


Chord of Resilience (AP): This encounter damage reduction power looks pretty tame with things like Revitalizing Incantation hanging around at this level.


Dramatic Shift (AP): Per-encounter movement buff for you and allies within 5 squares, letting all involved shift as a minor action for a round. Good one.


Echoing Steps (D 387): This daily starts with one big teleport for you or an ally, followed by the same target teleporting a square at a time as a minor action for the rest of the encounter. Good one to use on an ally who could certainly use the enhanced mobility at the right time.


Glimpse the Future (AP): You use this daily minor action at the start of a fight where one of your allies absolutely needs to land a crucial power on a certain enemy. With the rolling of 3 d20s and keeping the highest one, you stand a pretty great chance of turning anything super-crucial into a success. This can be good for Heroic Tier, but it does lose its luster quite a bit after as you and your party gain plenty of ways to make success more consistent.


Ode to Sacrifice (PHB2): Mainly for the Valorous. This encounter power comes in handy for ending save-ends conditions.


Reactive Wards (HotF): Grant a save to you or an ally, with your CHA-mod THPs if you fail. Fair.


Revitalizing Incantation (HotF): Bards had been thin on pure healing powers, a deficiency felt most strongly during Heroic Tier. Enter this beauty, which solved that problem in a BIG way. Every encounter not only do you let yourself or an ally spend a healing surge to heal normally, but on top of that they get their surge's worth of THPs. Or put it this way: It's the Paladin's Virtue stacked on top of normal healing. If you're looking to pick up more healing, look no further.


Song of Conquest (PHB2): This encounter power is best in the hands of the Valorous, granting THPs to allies who hit any enemy for a round. Pretty decent.


Song of Speed (AP): Boost to your or an ally's speed and extra square of shifting per encounter. Pretty underwhelming, actually. If you're looking for a mobility enhancer at this level, I'd go for Dramatic Shift, instead.


Synchronicity (AP): Essentially, once per day your entire party stands a pretty good chance of beating the enemy to the punch.


Trickster's Healing (PHB2): This daily power doesn't even make any sense. It heals the allies who were missed by an attack; i.e. the ones who needed it less. Which means you're only ever going to use this against an AoE. Plus the healing amount is a joke, even with a high Intelligence.


Class Skill Powers

Arcana


Experienced Arcana (PHB3): A half-cost ritual per day. And you get to reroll the check, too.


Diplomacy


Stirring Speech (PHB3): Before one fight per day, rally the troops and give them a +1 untyped bonus to attacks and saves as long as they're not bleeding. Decent.


Nature


Natural Terrain Understanding (D 385): Mass shifting and +2 power bonus to AC from your minor action per encounter. The burst size is kinda small, though, so it can be tough to get all allies involved. Still, not bad.


Perception


Guided Shot (PHB3): Make up for an ally's miss against AC by making the attack target Reflex instead. Good one.


 


Lv. 7 Encounter


Prescient Warning is the overall best power at this level, but there are a lot of solid options here. Melee weapons actually have an appealing choice this time around in Scorpion's Claw Strike, and Unluck is a great implement power for turning things topsy-turvy for one ally vs. enemy matchup.


Melee Weapon

Chillsong Stroke (AP): Slow the enemy and allow one ally to shift into an easy flank, or just get the hell out of there.


Scorpion's Claw Strike (PHB2): Slide an ally into an easy flank or a safer spot. The Valorous get to grant the ally CON-mod AC bonus, too. Remember, the value of melee ally slides increases in Paragon Tier if they took Agile Opportunist. Good, versatile power.


Ranged Weapon

Insightful Shot (AP): Too bad the defense debuff only works for one hit. Still a fair setup for an ally's daily, though.


Rewrite the Future (AP): Strictly worse than Unluck, actually, but if you want to stick to using your weapon instead of using an implement, this'll still do nicely.


Melee or Ranged Weapon

Wrath of Wolfstone (D 396): Another encounter power with an effect (regardless of hit or miss), and it's also a dual-source Arcane and Primal power. The conjuration is best placed in the thick of an enemy formation, leading to several enemies taking a little bit of cold damage and getting slid a square. Fair enough.


Implement

At Your Expense (D 390): High on flavor, pathetically low on crunch.


Deflect Attention (PHB2): It's not quite the Warlock's Mire the Mind, but it'll do. Making yourself or an ally invisible to the target is good no matter how you slice it.


Distracting Shout (PHB2): Mostly meant for closing in on enemies with threatening reach, or those moments when the party wants some separation. Has its uses.


Drums of the Wild Hunt (D 387): Rather odd power. A close burst 1 that can target up to three enemies, but only allows you to teleport one ally next to a target, and in some cases targets, that you hit. The ally gets a +3 power bonus only to its next attack roll, so it's not even good for the ally's own close burst follow-up. Overall, this looks like a power you should avoid.


Song of Duplicitous Allure (AP): Cutting Words with an extra twist that is best taken advantage of if you have another ranged attacker (particularly an Archer Ranger) in the party. The follow-ups from your ranged ally can really make it easy to pull the back-row enemy near a Defender. Has Charm and Psychic keywords.


Theft of Life (AP): Best used by the Cunning, allowing an ally to use a healing surge and granting THPs. Decent.


Timely Distraction (AP): Clearly the runt of what is otherwise a solid litter at this level. Stay away from this one.


Unluck (PHB2): Not too many powers let you replace an enemy's and an ally's attack rolls with the more advantageous one for your party in both cases, and do this every single encounter. This one's grand.


Special
 

Alter Fate (HotF): Your immediate actions are precious. Don't waste them on worthless damage tag-ons like this one that are already woefully underscaled at the level they're first available. 


Prescient Warning (HotF): Now we're talking. It's an immediate interrupt you can make an ally take when they get hit, a basic attack (melee or ranged) with some extra damage against the enemy that assaulted them. A great enabling power, and it does not require you to attack.


Urge to Victory (HotF): Did your ally waste his turn somehow? (Say, he was dazed, stunned, dominated, etc.) Use your immediate to grant him that attack he should've had last turn, a basic (melee or ranged) or even a charge, with some extra damage on top. The overall usefulness of this one depends on your party somewhat, but not every melee Striker or Defender out there is going to qualify for Superior Will, so keep that in mind.


 


Lv. 9 Daily


The implement-based Wail of Anguish still rocks, no doubt about it, although at least now its competition, such as Counterpoint, has reasons to exist. Both melee weapon powers, Hymn of the Daring Rescue and Thunder Blade, are solid (for once!). Of course, another option would be to take a second Lv. 5 power, since there's still plenty of greatness you didn't get to tap the first time.


Melee Weapon

Hymn of the Daring Rescue (PHB2): Place the effect on an ally who is likely to get dinged up, like a melee Striker.


Thunder Blade (PHB2): Lots of sliding of enemies when you hit with at-will powers. Good for arranging the battlefield for the whole encounter.


Ranged Weapon

Saga of Vengeance (AP): Best against an Elite or Solo, this one hands out some free healing when your allies hit the target of this attack.


Implement

Counterpoint (AP): Cast this when you've got enough melee allies ganging up on the enemy. Hit or miss, the enemy is in for a hell of a beatdown if he misses an attack while this effect is up. Note the word "miss," too, rather than "fail to hit," which is very important against an enemy that likes his AoEs. Amazing especially against an Elite or Solo.


Forceful Conduit (PHB2): An interesting power that lets an implement-wielding ally of your choice cast his powers through the enemy you hit. Has its uses, particularly if cover or distance is a factor.


Hideous Laughter (PHB2): On hit this can shut down an enemy's opportunity actions for quite some time (especially with the aftereffect). A good one to allow the whole party some freedom of movement around a solo while it lasts.


Rain of Starlight (AP): A ranged AoE that sets up combat advantage and denies concealment, total concealment and invisibility. Can be handy. Note that this is not party-friendly.


Symphony of Misfortune (AP): The zone is small (area burst 1) and non-moveable, and the effects aren't the most impressive. On top of that, the attack part of this power is not party-friendly (the zone is, though). You can do better.


Wail of Anguish (AP): Activated with a mere minor action, can be sustained, and gives you something to do with your opportunity actions; namely keep a lot of enemies from shifting. Awesome, especially if a Defender (and especially a Fighter) is nearby. The errata took out the damage roll, but the control effect is still very much worth it.


Skald's Aura

Anthem of Aggression (HotF): CHA-mod damage when your allies miss with at-wills. Pretty lame. Avoid it. 


Exposure of Weakness (HotF): Enforce vulnerability 2 on all enemies in the aura. Since this stacks with power bonuses and other bonuses to damage, this is pretty decent.

 

 


Lv. 10 Utility


Illusory Erasure and Mantle of Unity own this level. Although a Pixie's eyes might be fixed on one of its own racial powers here, instead. Even then, it's got competition.


Class Powers

Break Enchantment (AP): A small area burst for this daily, and Savior's Song is just plain better at a similar purpose.


Chant of Accuracy (AP): This is a daily that only lasts a single round, and its only effect is a +2 power bonus to attacks? Weak.


Enchantment Ward (HotF): A daily make-a-save power that can remove things normally removable only by Remove Affliction. Can't say I'm impressed. 


Idyll of Calm (AP): A zone that moves with you automatically, grants +2 power bonus to Will for your allies and reduces any attack penalties they have. Fair.


Illuminating Stars (AP): +5 to Insight and Perception for a whole encounter for you and nearby allies. Can come in handy, particularly for skill challenges and in places conducive to an ambush.


Illusory Erasure (PHB2): Per-encounter minor action to turn an ally invisible and slide him 2 squares. Which means this power plays beautifully with Feywalkers and Agile Opportunist allies. Obviously great on a stealthy ally, too.


Mantle of Unity (AP): Pool the highest defenses of every party member in the burst 5 together for a round per encounter. Quite nice.


Perfect Pitch (D 383): This daily gives you extra damage on your Bard attack powers and extra healing on your healing powers for a whole encounter. Fair enough.


Project Vitality (HotF): Only Skalds (real and fake) need look at this one: CHA-mod splash healing and one round of free-action usage of your Skald's Aura healing. Then again, maybe they shouldn't, as it's really pretty lame.


Savior's Song (AP): A daily that lasts the whole encounter, handing out rerolls of failed saves every round to nearby allies. Easily one of the better saves-related powers.


Song of Recovery (PHB2): Save bonuses for a round to allies within 5 squares, as a per-encounter minor action. Decent.


Veil (PHB2): Interesting power to be sure, but the success of this spell relies on the Bluff skills of your allies. And just how many of them will have a high Charisma and have Bluff trained?


Word of Life (PHB2): As close to a resurrection spell as you'll get at this point. This daily rescues an ally from being KO-ed and sets up the enemy who brought him down for some serious punishment.


Class Skill Powers

Bluff


Stall Tactics (PHB3): Lower enemy initiatives. That can be useful.


Heal


Time Out (PHB3): Per-encounter, you give one lucky ally a second use of second wind, with your minor action. Good if you have an ally that is liable to use second wind.


History


Lessons of History (D 385): In one fight per day, recover encounter utilities for all allies. Good one.


Recommended Racial Powers

Pixie


Gift of Flight (HotF): Make the whole party fly for a round. Requires that they be clustered together to get everybody (being a close burst 1), but the benefits of this still can't be overstated.

Canaith, Cli and Anstruth: Paragon Tier Powers


Lv. 13 Encounter


Another level where implements have a ton of winning options. The Cunning love Foolhardy Fighting, Prescient Bards get to inflict save penalties with Sharp Retort, and Song of Storms and Insult of Passivity are good choices in general. Melee weapons get a solid off-action deterrent in Couplet of Deceptive Weakness. This is also a level where the basic attack-triggered powers make another appearance, and Dimensional Step is a lovely enabler, especially if you've picked up a means of doing a basic attack on something other than your standard. 


Melee Weapon

Couplet of Deceptive Weakness (AP): Essentially amounts to an off-action chance to pile on two hits on an enemy foolish enough to move next to you. The ally can shift into an easy flank to get combat advantage on his attack.


Earthquake Strike (PHB2): Can be effective, but the party as a whole should not fall into the trap of spreading its attacks out too thin. This one is best done in a situation where an ally can follow up against several enemies with an AoE attack.


Harmony of the Two (PHB2): Never was a good choice to begin with, and now Dimensional Step has made it completely obsolete.


Ranged Weapon

Enduring Struggle (AP): The healing amount is a bit weak at this point.


Implement

Foolhardy Fighting (PHB2): Cast this when enough melee allies surround the enemy. This one is just plain sick; the enemy won't want to attack lest he suffer a serious beatdown. And if he doesn't attack, well, good for you still; he wasted his turn. Has the Charm and Psychic keywords to open up more fun times, and the Cunning get to slap a penalty on any attack rolls the enemy might want to do.


Insult of Passivity (AP): Basically, you force a choice: the enemy you cast this on will either be dazed the whole encounter, or one of his cronies will have to snap him out of it by attacking him, thus wasting a turn by not attacking your party. This one is best cast on an enemy like a Controller, Skirmisher or Artillery who likes to harass the party while keeping its distance; with said enemy away from the party, a crony can't use an AoE to snap him out of it and nail your party at the same time. Solid choice with the proper coordination.


Sharp Retort (AP): Best employed by Prescient Bards who want to all but guarantee an enemy's misery for another round from a save-ends effect. Doing damage as an immediate interrupt only sweetens the deal.


Slippery Feet (AP): Not bad; it can set up some flanks or isolation situations, but pretty mundane compared to a lot of the other powers here.


Song of Storms (PHB2): This large, party-friendly close blast AoE is a fine choice. Allies in the blast get to do extra lightning damage when they hit, too. (Too bad the Ocarina is not an implement in this game, by the way. Da-da-daaa, da-da-daaa, daaaa-da-da-da-da-da-daaaa.)


Basic Attack Triggered
 

Dimensional Step (HotF): An upgrade over the Lv. 1 Lesser power, this one allows your ally to make a basic attack (melee or ranged), in addition to the existing option to teleport next to the enemy you hit. A very good enabler for attacking and positioning, and even stronger if you have a way of doing a basic attack on something other than your standard.


Flash of Distraction (HotF): Like the Lesser version, daze the enemy, and he also gets slapped with a -2 attack penalty. Not as great at this level as its Lesser variant was at Lv. 1, but not bad.


Ringing Weapon (HotF): This wasn't good at Lv. 1, and 5 more damage sure as hell doesn't make it good now. Avoid this like the plague.


 


Lv. 15 Daily


And you thought Lv. 5 was loaded. You have so many amazing options here it ain't even funny. Once again, the true headliners are the implement powers. Satire of Evasion, Strike Up the Dance, Wall of Sound and Whispers of the Dream King are all winners. They all correspond to different playstyles, so pick which one fits you best. Ranged weapons also have a terrific damage buff option in Iceshard Shot.


Melee Weapon

Dance of Biting Wind (PHB2): The Cunning don't need this one at all. Everyone else gets to do a poor imitation of a Cunning Bard once per day. Which isn't terrible, but note that the allies shift, rather than slide, hence the poor imitation.


Quick Steel Dance (PHB2): The effect, the most substantial part of this power, lets allies shift as opportunity actions with enemies, which can have its uses. It can help your allies maintain flanks, assuming the enemy doesn't still have a standard action to charge out afterwards for free.


Ranged Weapon

Fated Vulnerability (AP): The usefulness of this one depends. Best in a party where everyone is dealing the same damage type.


Iceshard Shot (AP): Hit or miss, you inflict ongoing cold damage, which you or an ally can prolong forever as long as you hit the enemy to automatically make him fail the save. Just sexy.


Implement

Confusing Chorus (PHB2): Make an enemy attack one of his buddies at the start of every turn until he saves. Best cast on an enemy with reach. If you have powers that can potentially punish enemies for making attacks (e.g. Foolhardy Fighting, Counterpoint), this power can actually help force a nova in synergy with those, increasing its value.


Funeral Dirge (D 372): Close burst 2 that creates a zone that weakens enemies who are caught starting their turns there. The attack and the zone are both party-friendly, making this decent to pull out when you're near a melee cluster.


Hole in the Mind (AP): Basically Deflect Attention in daily form. The ally invisibility is save-ends on hit, and even on miss it'll last for a round. Pretty good.


Menacing Thunder (PHB2): Party-friendly, Thunder-keyword close burst 2 that creates a zone of +2 power bonus to attacks for allies within. Not too impressive.


Satire of Evasion (AP): A save-ends on hit that lets you roll d20s to cover for any ally misses on the object of affection. Excellent.


Strike Up the Dance (D 383): Target up to three enemies, each up to 10 squares from you with this Psychic attack vs. Will, and you immobilize them, deny their move actions and slide them 5 squares every round until they save. Even if you miss an enemy, you get to tell it where to move for a turn, at least. This is as good as it gets in the map rearrangement category up to this point.


Wall of Sound (AP): A fair-size wall that deals decent damage for being next to or in it, hampers movement and can potentially daze a lot of enemies. Very impressive control spell.


Whispers of the Dream King (D 387): Knock a foe unconscious if you hit its Fortitude. The save that takes place whenever the target takes damage may sound like a bummer, but what the hell, your party is still likely to get at least one nice coup-de-grace in before the poor sap wakes up. And once he does (or recovers from the daze from a miss), you can have every single melee-capable ally nearby teleport into perfect offensive formation against him. Fun, fun, fun. Another grand option in a level full of them.


Wracking Radiance (AP): Ongoing radiant damage with possibly a modicum of free healing for allies near the target. Not bad. Better if you're traveling with a Divine character of some sort who is geared toward creating radiant vulnerability.


Skald's Aura

Directed Aggression (HotF): Uh, what the hell? No, seriously, what in the actual hell? The effect isn't worth an ENCOUNTER power several levels ago, much less a daily here.


Song of Solidarity (HotF): This one's actually pretty good in a melee-heavy party. Form a melee cluster and you can make enemies caught in it scared to attack or suffer some pretty nasty beatdowns, and the threat of this lasts the whole encounter.


 


Lv. 16 Utility


This level has a bunch of options that certainly aren't bad, but aren't anything special, either. Song of Sublime Snowfall is the overall best here. A few nova-focused builds can use Haste to pretty good effect. Or you can go back to Lv. 10, where some truly great powers still remain.


Class Powers

Allied Rhythm (AP): Fair encounter power for a melee-heavy party, potentially granting some huge bonuses to attack rolls for one of your allies. Preferably the one packing multiple attacks.


Blink Zone (PHB2): A sustainable zone that grants power bonuses to AC and Reflex, as well as short-range teleportation within. Best cast on a melee cluster, helping your melee allies easily move into flanks and keep them. Fair.


Chorus of Recovery (PHB2): Grant your allies saving throws for starting their turns near you. This zone moves with you and is sustainable. Decent.


Chorus of Vitality (AP): Mass healing surge trigger as a minor action, but what sells this daily the most is the free shifting that also happens. Fair power.


Dramatic Intercession (HotF): This daily is an immediate interrupt KO-rescue spell that's best with a high INT. Pretty decent.


Elegy of the Undefeated (PHB2): A near-death rescue spell. It does grant two surges' worth of free healing, so it's worth mentioning, even if it does use a standard.


Fearless Example (HotF): End all fear effects and trigger mass saves against all effects. Decent.


Haste (AP): This daily power trades one of your minor actions in the round for an extra standard action for you or an ally. That can be nice to have for that one big nova round.


Heroic Interjection (AP): Amounts to an off-action Haste that is only usable against enemies with action points, i.e. Elites and Solos. Generally, you're a lot better off just taking Haste if that's the effect you were going for.


Musical Chairs (D 383): I've made my peace with it, even if the nerf from encounter to daily was uncalled for. Letting all your allies choose between long-distance shifting and saves with your CHA-bonus attached to those saves is pretty solid.


Song of the Soul Harvest (D 372): Helpful for Fighters and Wardens, not so much for Paladins and Swordmages.


Song of Sublime Snowfall (PHB2): Sustainable zone, and every time you sustain it all allies heal your CHA-mod of hit points. It also creates difficult terrain, which even affects flyers, which means enemies can't get out of it easily. A good one for keeping a fight where you want it.


Class Skill Powers

Insight


Insightful Riposte (PHB3): Per-encounter correction of a missed attack with a +3 bonus. Awesome, especially since hitting is important for Leaders. This one's actually a good use of the Skill Power feat.


 


Lv. 17 Encounter


The Valorous get to swing their weapons with the great Song of Summons, and the Prescient get to fire away with the ranged weapon gem Balance of Fortune. Not to be outdone, the Cunning can redraw a battle map with the implement-based Shout of Evasion. Alternately, all Bards have the option to pick up a potent weapon buff in Greater Echoing Weapon or a nice Defender assist in Masks of Menace.


Melee Weapon

Dissonant Imbuement (D 383): Another one of those oddball melee powers best employed by the Cunning. But no one can say that it's not effective for setting up some absolutely glorious power plays for the party against AC and Reflex. It's an outright winner if you are one of those Cunning Bards who interestingly likes to get your hands dirty.


Song of Summons (PHB2): This one is for the Valorous, who can teleport a Striker ally next to the enemy and grant him huge bonuses to attack. Great.


Spectral Vanguard (D 396): Another one of those encounter powers with an effect regardless of hit or miss (and, yes, it's also Arcane/Primal), and this one is an aura 3 that gives allies a +2 power bonus to defenses and also lets you slide an enemy a couple squares if it ends its turn in it. Nothing eye-opening, but not bad, either.


Word of Vulnerability (PHB2): Allies require combat advantage to take advantage of the favor. A little too situational.


Ranged Weapon

Balance of Fortune (AP): Geared toward the Prescient, this thing hits often since it's a weapon attack vs. Will. You screw over enemies' attack rolls and boost your allies' attacks for a round. Excellent.


Inescapable Fate (AP): With so many better options at this level, this one is left in the dust.


Strings of Fate (AP): Target up to three enemies, attack their Reflex to hit often, and help AC attackers out as they attack the enemies' Reflex. Good one.


Implement

Masks of Menace (PHB2): You essentially get to lay down an extremely strong Misdirected Mark that isn't a mark. Which means it stacks with a Defender's mark and other penalties, and Paladins and Swordmages benefit just as much as Fighters and Wardens. It's also Psychic, and you know what that means. -9 or greater to attack anyone else other than the Defender is pretty damn nice, indeed.


Resounding War Cry (AP): Good, large, party-friendly AoE that can set up a lot of dazing. Best used when you anticipate an ally following up with an AoE of his own. Thunder keyword, too.


Shout of Evasion (PHB2): Geared toward the Cunning, who can spur the entire party into all sorts of advantageous positions with this.


Turning the Tide (AP): Healing surge trigger for any ally who follows this up with a hit. Not bad, but mundane in light of some other powers here.


Weapon Boosts

Greater Chilled Blade (HotF): This effect was good at Lv. 3, but not at Lv. 17. Too many nice options already existing at this level to even consider this one. 


Greater Echoing Weapon (HotF): Echoing Weapon with an extra d6 of damage, but that's OK, since anything that amounts to what is essentially a full extra attack's worth of damage scales beautifully by default. Works just like it's predecessor, meaning it's not "extra damage" but actually a separate damage incident that gets the benefits of all modifiers from the buffed attacker (cast on a Striker's weapon for best results). (Another fun fact to note: If you keep its Lv. 3 predecessor around, you can spend two minor actions on your turn to stack both of these powers on the same weapon and essentially triple the Striker's ensuing hit.)


Greater Seek Weakness (HotF): Seek Weakness upgraded to a +4 power bonus to damage. Which isn't quite good enough of an upgrade from its Lv. 3 predecessor.


 


Lv. 19 Daily


Several solid options at this level, although Satire of Prowess stands out the most.


Special

Increasing the Tempo (PHB2): Its single-target beatdown potential has been diluted by the errata, as now the beneficiary can only attack a single enemy twice. If you use this on a melee ally, he or she must be adjacent to two foes to get all four attacks prescribed by this power and thus put this to the best use. Solid enough, still, but no longer a flat-out winner.


Ranged Weapon

Linked Fortunes (AP): Can screw your ally over as much as it hurts the enemy. Shun it.


Saga of the Harrying Foe (AP): At this point, the power bonus to attack rolls for one ally just isn't enough of a selling point. Save-ends conditional psychic damage isn't either.


Implement

All Soul's Ball (D 372): Helps if you hit with this thing so you can better trap enemies in the zone with the immobilization. The zone triggers healing surges and makes enemies give up combat advantage when an enemy dies in it. Decent.


Corralling Song (AP): This AoE forces enemies to cluster together, and the save-ends effect, hit or miss, punishes them with damage if they don't. Good at helping your Controller do his/her job better.


Craven Chorus (D 383): Is this some kind of joke? Because I'm not laughing. Garbage power that amounts to nothing more than a glorified Thunderwave. I mean, at least Sprightly Rhythm at Lv. 1 tried to get your allies involved.


Encircling Dance (PHB2): Basically a radiant attack against an enemy or two attached to a mass shift. Decent.


Irresistible Dance (PHB2): Too bad this one isn't party-friendly. Because it had great potential as a beatdown from multiple Agile Opportunists. As it stands, it's still good for casting on a cluster of enemies for some massive sliding around and map redrawing.


Mocking Epigram (AP): An interesting power that effectively halves the damage your ally would've taken and makes an enemy suffer the remaining half. Could do worse.


Satire of Prowess (PHB2): The enemy rolls twice to its peril; allies roll twice to the enemy's peril as long as the power lasts. A damn good one for sure, and it'll get even better when you can start loading up on save penalties.


Spring to Action (AP): Mainly used as a combat starter against a cluster of enemies from a distance. The usefulness of this one varies depending on party composition; it's best in a melee-heavy party, who will really benefit from the instant distance closure and easy flank setups that can result, all done before the enemy party can disperse into better positions.


Skald's Aura

Fable of Focus (HotF): Makes your allies' attacks all brutal 2 for the encounter. Not worth a daily at this level. 


Song of Flagging Strength (HotF): Twice in the encounter, you can inflict save-ends weakening and ongoing psychic damage on an enemy when you or an ally hits it. This one's pretty good, particularly against a Solo, where you'll get at least two rounds of taking its attacks down a peg.

Ollamh at Last: Epic Tier Powers


Lv. 22 Utility


Lv. 16 sure could've used some of this love. It'd almost be easier to tell you what not to pick, because this epic utility level is a gold mine for Bards. Note of AggressionClimactic Chord and Invisible Troupe probably have the most universal appeal. Those with a Skald's Aura and some melee buddies will take a good, hard look at Aura of Reverence and Words of Manipulation. Wayfarer Bards, who are likely to have enhanced their teleportation abilities, will flock to Queen's Clemency. Even those notwithstanding, there's a lot of quality left over. Take your pick.


Class Powers

Assured Recovery (AP): You let an ally reroll a failed save with your CHA-mod bonus. Fair enough, though a tad underwhelming compared to a lot of its competition here.


Aura of Reverence (HotF): Requires Skald's Aura, and this one is quite good, especially in a melee-heavy party. A bloodied enemy in your aura must move out of it first thing, which tends to result in a lovely fiesta of OAs. 


Cherub's Song (D 383): This daily is flight for you for a whole encounter, flat; you don't even have to sustain it. And if allies start their turns within 5 squares of you, they can fly, too (really fast if you're Valorous). Good one, especially if not everyone is investing in at-will flight items, but make sure that you stay within 5 squares of any allies in the air or they'll fall, although by this point your allies can at least buy Winged Boots for practically free so such a fall won't hurt them.


Climactic Chord (AP): You mean this isn't an attack power? The nova potential from this daily is all sorts of ridiculous. Even better, it's all triggered from a mere minor action, with a huge 10-square burst that easily gets the whole party in on the focus-fire carnage. Great for larger parties, especially (6 or more).


Elegy Unwritten (PHB2): Probably the best class-related resurrection spell in the game, particularly because it's an immediate interrupt.


Invisible Troupe (PHB2): Per-encounter minor-action mass invisibility for a round. Even if no one is trained in stealth it can still be almost as good as blinding all your enemies for a round for free. Close burst 3 makes for a decent chance to make everyone disappear.


Mirrored Entourage (PHB2): Basically a mass casting of two-thirds of a Mirror Image. Which is crap.


Note of Aggression (AP): With the advent of your basic attack-triggered powers like the Dimensional Step line, this encounter minor-action MBA/charge enabler has gained even more purpose than before. Namely, enable yourself with this one, and if you hit, trigger the teleportation and second attack from an ally with your Dimensional Step. Thus generating two attacks for the price of just your minor action and elevating this to perhaps the melee Bard's top power overall at this level.


Ode to the Daring (AP): Surgeless mass-healing spell with a large burst and triggered as a minor action. Also lets everyone make a save. Solid.


Queen's Clemency (D 387): This at-will, minor-action ally teleporation power does require teleportation optimization items to be worth taking, but if that was the route you went (probably because you took Bardic Wayfarer), this is nothing short of brilliant. All of a sudden the default 1-square teleport from this power becomes, like, 10 or more with teleport enhancers such as Eladrin Armor, Eladrin Boots, Gloves of Dimensional Repulsion, Eladrin Ring of Passage, Ring of Retreat and Incisive Dagger. And speaking of Bardic Wayfarer, the self-teleportation from that feat applies here, so have fun with that. If you're not taking any teleport enhancers, on the other hand, skip this one.


Song of Transition (PHB2): This daily creates a minor-action sustainable zone that lets you and your allies teleport literally all over the battle map. Can be quite handy.


Words of Manipulation (HotF): Requires Skald's Aura. Yet another quality power, this one letting your Striker buddy packing a multitude of focus-fire powers, a bad attitude and a ton of damage buffs take another standard action at the cost of your own. You can do this for the whole encounter, by the way.


 


Lv. 23 Encounter


This level really treats Bards of all types right. Implement attackers become a Controller's best buddy with Chant of Bad Fortune. Prescient Bards with a bow grab the ranged weapon attack Reverberating Shot. Melee Bards love that White Wolves. And finally, any Bard will find True Prescient Warning an appealing option.


Melee Weapon

Song of Liberation (PHB2): Too situational. Not too often that the whole party will be affected by immobilization, restraint or slow.


Weal and Woe (PHB2): Only the Valorous should consider it at all, in which case it serves as a solid setup attack for a melee ally in position, with the granted saving throw a nice little extra.


White Wolves (D 396): Another Arcane/Primal encounter power with an effect, hit or miss, and this one is actually pretty grand. The effect is a zone that immobilizes all enemies who end their turns in it (and deals them a little cold damage), created from the close blast 5 attack. This one's fantastic to pull off with other melee support threatening enemies in the thick of it, possibly forcing them to risk OAs to get out of the zone. If you do hit any enemies with the attack (which is versus Fortitude), they are also knocked prone, making life even more difficult for them.


Ranged Weapon

Reverberating Shot (AP): Excellent setup attack for potentially the whole party when used by the Prescient. All allies in 5 squares can get huge bonuses to attack rolls (or AC if they prefer). This shot also attacks Reflex, meaning it hits and grants the bonuses often.


Sound Strike (AP): The rare non-Prescient ranged weapon Bard might look at this one to set up an almost sure and possibly hard hit from an ally. Decent one.


Implement

Chant of Bad Fortune (AP): This large burst, party-friendly AoE is the perfect follow-up to or setup for an ally's AoE daily power that inflicted save-ends effects, thanks to the -5 debuff to enemy saves. As an added bonus, your allies in the burst get to make saves. An impressive Controller aid spell.


Echoes in Time (PHB2): Solid tactical power when used by the Cunning, who give allies that elect to teleport back to their starting spots huge bonuses to all defenses.


Mind Game (AP): Lets your allies target the enemy's Will with their attacks, which more often than not is a very good thing.


Rhythm of Disorientation (PHB2): This party-friendly area burst is for casting on a melee cluster, where you've got allies ready to tack on a second attack while the enemies are down. Decent.


Transference Tune (D 383): Hit with this and you get to save against all ongoing effects and then for a round inflict your enemy with the effects you successfully saved to end. Fair.


Special

True Alter Fate (HotF): Its effect type was worthless at Lv. 7, and how much more so now. 


True Prescient Warning (HotF): This one, on the other hand, is still a winner. Immediate-interrupt powers granting extra attacks via a common trigger (e.g. getting hit) never go out of style. This one does a couple more dice worth of damage compared to its predecessor.


True Urge to Victory (HotF): Just like its predecessor, this one lets an ally who was incapacitated and couldn't attack last turn make a basic attack (melee or ranged) or charge, with more extra damage attached this time. Considering such effects are more commonplace in Epic Tier, this one is worth a look.


 


Lv. 25 Daily


It must be something about levels ending in "5." Another loaded level for implement-based powers. Go for Frenzied Rhythm, Virtuoso of Misfortune or Vision Distortion.


Melee Weapon

Fraught with Failure (PHB2): Mostly used against an Elite or Solo. The immobilization and weakening must be saved against separately. Fair.


Ranged Weapon

Leave it Dead (AP): When it hits, it basically gives the whole party, yourself included, the Vorpal property for all attacks. Too bad the Vorpal property sucks.


Implement

Adversarial Song (PHB2): Likely, your chosen ally will be a Defender, helping him do his job a lot better, and deal more damage, until the enemy saves. The effect is applied hit or miss.


Frenzied Rhythm (PHB2): Nothing is as much fun as getting your enemies to fight each other, and you've got a nice area of effect for the mayhem. Ideally, you want to work it out so that one enemy gets gang-beaten by his cronies. And for good measure, the survivors are stunned for the round. You want some setup to be able to score as many hits as possible with this power, since a miss isn't as much fun: merely dazing enemies for a round.


Intimidating Visage (AP): Feeble damage on hit, and feeble conditional one-time extra damage that only takes place if you hit. Just plain garbage, even if the AoE is huge.


Sculpt Fate (AP): Best cast on a melee cluster. The effect is very nice indeed, assuming you hit enough of the allies in the area burst, giving you some d20s you can screw over some enemies with. Situational, but nice when it works.


Virtuoso of Misfortune (AP): An area burst 2 that when it hits, drops -5 save penalties on enemies until they save to end this, which, oops, they'll have a tough time doing. Making for a vicious little conundrum that ensures your Controller allies love you.


Vision Distortion (PHB2): Best cast on a melee cluster, this area burst 2 can work out to being nearly as good as inflicting save-ends blinding on a group of enemies.


Skald's Aura

Chant of Devastation (HotF): Tack on 15 ongoing damage to any attack that hits in the aura once per round. Pretty decent, as such damage can add up quickly.


Zeal-Inspiring Tale (HotF): If an enemy misses your ally with a melee attack, that ally gets an OA. Has some pretty good synergy with defense boosts, Defender marks and the like. Best in a melee-heavy party with a strong debuff-inclined Defender.


 


Lv. 27 Encounter


Sort of a mixed bag at this encounter capstone level, but there are definitely some standouts. If you have reliable ways to do a basic attack on something besides your standard action every encounter (and by this point, all Bards have ample means of getting those), Greater Dimensional Step and Greater Flash of Distraction are both winning options. The Valorous do fine with Surge of Valor in a melee-heavy party. Pounding Rhythm is also quite powerful for any Bard if you've got someone in the party with strong AoE capability.


Melee Weapon

Crescendo of Victory (AP): Only a +2 power bonus to attack rolls? Really? Only against the target? Really? At Lv. 27? Really?


Strike from Legend (AP): Best geared toward the Valorous who have the CON to grant extra healing on the mass-surge triggering that's most likely to happen with this power. Decent for that.


Surge of Valor (PHB2): A power similar to the Warlord's Hail of Steel that only enables melee allies. Which still isn't bad, mind you, if you're in a melee-heavy party. And they get a free 2-square shift to get into position. If you're Valorous, the beatdown is pretty much guaranteed, and extra-damaging.


Ranged Weapon

Binding Rhyme (AP): Attacks Reflex for an easy hit, immobilizes the enemy and encourages his cronies to cluster next to him and set his whole squad up for an AoE. Automatic 20 force damage for refusing to cluster is no joke.


Implement

Bond of Malediction (PHB2): Best employed by a Cunning Bard, but even then it's somewhat underwhelming compared to other options at this level.


Kaleidoscopic Burst (PHB2): At this point, a modicum of AoE damage with a 2-square shift for allies is pretty damn weak.


Pounding Rhythm (AP): This close blast 3 can result in a lot of stunned enemies if you've got an ally ready to follow up with an AoE of his own.


Second Chances (AP): Cast this when your allies are in position to tee off on the target, granting all of those within 3 squares a chance to reroll an attack. Good setup for a focused assault involving allies' encounter and daily powers.


Basic Attack Triggered

Greater Dimensional Step (HotF): Same as its Lv. 13 counterpart, with an extra d10 on the ally's attack enabled by this power. But this is still as good a choice as any, provided you have a means to make a basic attack on something besides your standard action. Plus there's something to be said about taking this one and also keeping its Lv. 13 predecessor in your arsenal (considering you can trigger them both off the same hit).


Greater Flash of Distraction (HotF): Stun an enemy until the end of your next turn after you hit him. Stunning's great, as always. 


Greater Ringing Weapon (HotF): Third time is absolutely not a charm for this effect.


 


Lv. 29 Daily


Hero's Beacon is a great capstone for melee weapons and almost makes up for the rough treatment they've gotten throughout the Bard's career. Ranged weapons get the crit-generating mayhem Arrow of Destiny so lovingly provides. And implements get two winners in Horrifying Truth and Spellbind.


Melee Weapon

Hero's Beacon (PHB2): Turn an enemy into a walking battery of automatic radiant damage for him and his surrounding cronies and healing for your allies. Awesome especially for leading the attack on the Elite or Solo in the enemy party. Even more awesome if you've got a Divine character geared toward setting up radiant vulnerability in the party.


Ranged Weapon

Arrow of Destiny (AP): You get to guarantee at least one crit every round against the target while the condition lasts, using your immediate action. Don't have too much fun.


Saga of Foretold Doom (AP): You took this instead of Arrow of Destiny, because?


Implement

Horrifying Truth (AP): Mass save-ends dazing hit or miss, and if it hits it can result in a lot of save-ends stunned enemies with follow-up hits. Nice blast area, too. The classic follow-up AoE from an ally always works. Aside from that, this may be one of the few cases where the party spreading out its attacks is, in fact, justified.


Satire of Leadership (PHB2): Hit or miss, you inflict on the enemy a -2 penalty to all defenses and vulnerability 5 all until a save ends it. Not bad.


Shockwave Strike (AP): Best for Valorous Bards who can turn into a walking battery of thunder damage and -2 AC debuffs to enemies within 5 squares of him. Minor-action sustainable, and usually worth it to do so.


Song of the Deadly Dancer (D 372): A summon spell. Too bad it summons a weak attempt at a Defender, complete with marks without a way to punish them.


Spellbind (PHB2): Save-ends domination on hit. Need I say more?


Skald's Aura

Climactic Crescendo (HotF): Lets you turn one ally hit (or yours) into a crit automatically for the encounter. Arrow of Destiny does have the greater potential if you can debuff the enemy's save somehow, but this one is still pretty good. And unlike Arrow of Destiny, the automatic crit effect from this doesn't require you to spend an immediate action.


Demoralizing Dirge (HotF): Makes your party inflict ongoing CHA-mod psychic damage all around, with every attack. Fair.

Extra Practice: Feats


Note for the general, racial and power source feats: The ones I mention will mostly be ranked blue or higher (with a few blacks). I'll note traps, as well.


Bards should generally prioritize their feat selection in the following order:


1. Attack accuracy. Hitting enemies is the most important thing any character does. It's even more important for you as a Leader. The better you hit, the more often your party-starter powers will benefit your allies. That simple.


2. Healing/buffing/enabling. In short, what you do as a Leader. Feats that buff your class features' capacity to boost attack rolls, defenses and movement options are vital. Almost as important are feats that bolster your ability to restore hit points, grant THPs and grant saving throws.


3. Debuffing/control. For maximum effectiveness, you need to pay attention to your Controller aspects, since it's part of how you lead. Look at feats that help debuff enemy attack rolls and defenses, as well as enhance forced movement and possibly inflict status effects. Feats that buff specific keywords tend to fall into this category.


4. Initiative. This is often a lot more important to you than it is to many other Leader classes, since your specialty tends to be movement enabling and positioning. Putting your allies (and enemies) in position before they act greatly expedites combat. Since you likely won't have a high Dexterity, feats are your best bet for improving this.


5. Defenses/survivability. You're no good to the party dead. The Leader, more than any other role, must stay upright. So feats that boost this are important, and they also increase the possibility that your healing is used on your allies, rather than yourself.


6. Power recovery. Take any feats that let you recover encounter and daily powers. They can have a huge effect on any battle, or adventuring day.


7. MID reduction. As a class who uses both implements and weapons, you'll want to fold both modes of attack into one, if needed.


 


Class/Power Source Feats

Heroic Tier

Advantage of Cunning (PHB2): Its strength may not be readily apparent, but experiment with it (pull out a chessboard) and you'll quickly see why it's mandatory for any serious Cunning Bard. The number of clever rearrangements you can pull with this feat is mind-boggling. And it only gets better in Paragon Tier when you also take Improved Cunning. Some things to remember: (1) There is no sliding distance specified by this feat, allowing you to slide the enemy in a path you see fit. (2) You can slide a Large or larger enemy into any group of squares so long as one of those squares was formerly occupied by your ally. And (3) the enemy you move does NOT have to be the one who triggered Virtue of Cunning, and in many cases (e.g. ranged attacker) isn't.


Arcane Familiar (AP): You gain a familiar. Details on those have their own handbook, so look there for what familiars and familiar feats you should take. Not all of you will take a familiar, but having one does come with some interesting and useful perks. And it's fun.


Arcane Implement Proficiency (AP): Skalds should lap this one up ASAP. Many of their best power options, particularly Staggering Note and dailies, still remain implement attacks, and to be able to use their shortsword or dagger for such saves a lot of MID headache. O-Bards, on the other hand, should accomplish the same thing by picking up a Swordmage multiclass feat if they have the qualifying INT 13, instead, thanks to their Multiclass Versatility.


Bard of All Trades (D 383): It's Jack of All Trades upgraded just for you Bards, granting a +3 feat bonus to all untrained skills. With Skill Versatility on top of this, all your untrained skills are merely -1 away from being effectively trained. Incredible.


Bardic Knowledge (PHB2): +2 feat bonus to several knowledge checks, some of them conducive to rituals. Worth a look, although be aware that it doesn't stack with Bard of All Trades' bonus if said knowledge skill is untrained.


Bardic Wayfarer (D 387): With the standard teleport optimizations on hand (Eladrin Armor, Eladrin Boots, Gloves of Dimensional Repulsion, Eladrin Ring of Passage, Ring of Retreat, Incisive Dagger), your Majestic Word becomes a great heal-and-rescue spell for those allies who prefer to keep their distance, or just need to be lifted out of immediate danger. Then there's the side effect that teleports you whenever you teleport an ally, which is also awesome, and benefits from all the same teleport enhancers. That latter side effect makes this feat one of the cornerstones of the "Bard Taxi" concept.


Battle Cadence (D 396): Slide the beneficiary of your Majestic Word an extra square and give them an untyped +2 bonus to their next damage roll as well. Pretty good on its own, but it can become amazing in Paragon Tier with melee allies taking Agile Opportunist. Now when you heal with Majestic Word, you can slide your ally one square, then the second square back to where they were before, triggering their attack without them having to give up an ideal position. Very nice. Wayfarer Note: It's debated whether this feat works with Bardic Wayfarer's Majestic Word teleport.


Battle Song Expertise (D 402): This is the Bard-specific member of the Expertise family, and it's the Expertise of choice for Bards who use heavy blades, light blades, wands or instruments. It applies its feat bonus correction to attack rolls for all attacks using a weapon (including implement attacks) as well as for wands, songblades and instruments. And its secondary benefit is quite nice, too: An extra square of forced movement for all applicable Bard and Bard PP attack powers. 


Combat Virtuoso (AP): Not everyone will need to take it, obviously, but it opens up tons of options for multiclassing or a Half-Elf's Dilletante power that you wouldn't have even thought of otherwise. Note, however, that it does NOT affect paragon path powers or powers gained through the Eternal Seeker epic destiny.


Dual Implement Spellcaster (AP): Not as necessary for you as it is for, say, Sorcerers, but something to consider. Two wands, or two Songblades or AIP-ed light blades will do nicely. Mind the DEX 13 requirement, though.


Extended Prescience (AP): For Prescient Bards only, and it improves that Virtue considerably with its much longer duration. A must for them in the first 10 levels of their career.


Feyborn Charm (AP): Ouch. How the mighty hath fallen. With the recent update to the Expertise feats classifying their bonuses as feat bonuses, this one is as good as dead. It does not stack with the Expertise feats now. Yeah, it still grants a feat bonus to damage as well, but you're probably not picking Charm powers for the damage they do.


Friendly Deception (AP): Apply your Words of Friendship class feature power to Bluff checks. Can be handy.


Improved Majestic Word (PHB2): CHA-mod temp HPs for the target of a Majestic Word, making it even more efficient. You'll want this sooner or later.


Majestic Fervor (D 377): Requires training in Religion, but a +1 untyped bonus to attacks for an ally who isn't bloodied when you heal them with Majestic Word is rather nifty.


Moonbow Dedicate (D 386): Has an annoying deity restriction (Sehanine), but if you qualify, you get to use a shortbow as an implement for all divine and arcane powers, and it even comes with a free Weapon Focus benefit. Awesome.


Prescient Fortification (AP): A +2 to the Virtue of Prescience benefit. Helpful in the beginning, but you may want to retrain it later as your WIS increases.


Saving Breath (D 383): Geared toward the Valorous, this grants a Majestic Word beneficiary your CON-mod bonus to the next save before the end of your next turn. Fair enough. Better if you have Mark of Healing.


Skald Training (HotF): Replace your Majestic Word with Skald's Aura. The cornerstone of the Fake Skald build, and essential if you want to take advantage of Bard powers that rely on the Skald's Aura.


Strength of Valor (PHB2): The oft-random nature of the Valor benefit makes this minor damage boost questionable in value.


White Lotus Defense (D 374): +1 untyped bonus to all defenses against the enemy you hit with an arcane at-will. Decent.


White Lotus Enervation (D 374): -1 debuff to a defense targeted by an arcane at-will. Pretty good. Especially since penalties stack. If Guiding Strike is debuffing AC that round, it essentially gets an extra penalty point.


White Lotus Evasion (D 374): Minor action shifting after you hit with an arcane at-will. Fair enough.


White Lotus Hindrance (D 374): Makes all squares next to you difficult terrain, which can keep melee attackers away from you. Good stuff, and opens up an even more potent prize in Paragon Tier.


White Lotus Riposte (D 374): Inflicts your ability modifier's worth of damage to an enemy who attacks you after you hit it with an at-will. The real value of this feat lies in what it opens up in Paragon Tier, but it's not like this feat itself is anything to sneeze at.


Wild Virtue (D 396): Shift a square whenever you use your Virtue. Valorous Bards are probably going to get the most out of this one, as they'll typically be within the thick of the fight, their Virtue is guaranteed to trigger twice as often as there are enemies on the map, and free shifts in melee are great for setting up flanks and other nice positions. The Cunning might look at it just for some free movement to more easily stay clear of the fray. The Prescient won't look at it for a while, if ever, since their Virtue only goes off once per encounter by default.


Words of Wrath (D 396): Your Words of Friendship power can apply to Intimidate. If Intimidate is more your style than Diplomacy, this one can come in handy. And unlike its counterpart for Bluff, this one even comes with a +2 feat bonus to its relevant skill.


Paragon Tier

Arcane Admixture (AP): You can unlock all sorts of fun exploits with this feat. Best used on an arcane at-will power or two you plan to use often, making the powers qualify for synergies with various feats (ex. Tieflings with their Fire-based tricks, Cold for Lasting Frost synergy, Lightning with Oncoming Storm, etc.) Note: The keyword from this feat is in addition to the default damage-type keywords of the power. That is this feat's key advantage, and is different from using, say, a Frost Weapon, which would instead replace the power's default damage-type keywords.


Disheartening Presence (AP): Debuff bloodied enemies' attacks by -1 just by being next to them and not bloodied. Pretty good for melee Bards. Protects you and protects any allies next to those adjacent enemies as well.


Improved Cunning (PHB2): Cunning Bards most definitely want this. Sliding 2 squares is priceless as you fight more enemies that are bigger than you. Gets vulnerable allies out of the melee range of even Large enemies, and makes flanks even easier to set up. This feat also opens up a nifty trick on an ally with Agile Opportunist: if they're already in the melee position they want to be in next to the enemy, slide them one square away, then one square back to where they started and trigger their AO attack.


Improved Valor (PHB2): An extra 3 THPs from Virtue of Valor. Since you'll be a War Chanter with that Virtue, this helps you as well. Boring, but you should take it if you can.


Majestic Rescue (AP): Majestic Word grants a save, too. Worth a look. If you're in Eberron and took Mark of Healing, however, it's redundant.


Lyric of Rejuvenation (PHB2): Your party regains a couple extra hit points with surge usage after a short rest. Can come in handy when you don't have enough Majestic Words to go around after a tough battle, so it's a decent choice.


Prescient Aid (AP): Your Virtue of Prescience now gets an AMAZING offensive application. Prescient Bards should never pass this one up. You use an immediate interrupt to turn an ally's miss into a hit with your WIS-modifier bonus from up to 10 squares away (double the range of the default defensive Prescience). This might as well be your only use of the virtue from this point forward. In which case, you can retrain Extended Prescience for this one, since that feat specifically applied only to the defensive application.


Song of Inspiration (AP): Va fanculo, is this one a fraud. Pre-emptive healing is a wonderful concept, but the amount of THPs gained from this is pitiful. Most definitely NOT worth trading in a whole damn healing surge to get them.


Walk Among the Fey (D 387): The teleportation granted by this may be bound to all restrictions on the original slide from the power in question (including the system-wide restrictions on forced movement, so an uninterrupted 2D plane, basically) but this feat's benefit can still be very helpful to have around in the right situations. Bard Taxis, in particular, will go for this one.


White Lotus Master Evasion (D 374): Free 1-square shift when you hit with an arcane at-will. Decent.


White Lotus Master Hindrance (D 374): All allies get your Hindrance benefit now; they create difficult terrain wherever they step. Defenders love you for helping them cut off certain shift-and-charge lanes, and squishies love you for making them more difficult to approach in melee, and if your melee allies have flanks set up, they'll REALLY love you.


White Lotus Master Riposte (D 374): Immediate reaction at-will repeat against an enemy who attacks you. Combine with a Defender's help to set the enemy up in a lose-lose between you and him.


Epic Tier

Bard Implement Expertise (AP): Requires CON 15 and INT 15. Gives you a 19-20 crit range with implement attacks from a wand. Since you're not going to be big on personal damage if you're using a baton, this is only really worth a look if you're packing significant on-crit effects. (Ex: Tiefling with Glasya's Charming Words.)


Long Arm of Virtue (PHB2): The Valorous might consider this one. Otherwise, the Cunning already have all the range they'll ever need, and the Prescient are doing just fine with the 10-square range on Prescient Aid.


Multiclass Mastery (AP): Get the benefits of two full multiclass feats for the price of this one. Awesome stuff. This gives you the opportunity to retrain out of up to two multiclass feats you had, effectively saving yourself a feat.


Prescient Resurgence (AP): Another use of Virtue of Prescience in an encounter when you use an action point. Prescients neglect this one at their party's peril.


Quickened Spellcasting (AP): There are enough Bards who would kill for a per-encounter minor-action use of an at-will for this feat to be considered mandatory, overall. Pretty much any Bard packing Staggering Note, for one (which should be pretty much all of you). Resourceful Magicians or Half-Elves with Eldritch Strike and Dimensional Step powers, for another.


Supreme Majesty (AP): Target two with Majestic Word. If that's your healing feature, take this. That is all.


Trusted Spellcasting (AP): Best used on an AoE encounter spell. Might be worth a look.


Martial Power Source Feats (for Skalds)

Paragon Tier


Deft Blade (MP2): Makes your basic attacks, melee or ranged, with light blades nail Reflex instead of AC if you prefer. Mandatory if you're using light blades (which you DEFINITELY should if you're melee, and even if ranged throwing a dagger is about as good as it gets.)


General Feats

Heroic Tier

Armor Proficiency (Ring Mail) (MME): For the Cunning Bards yearning for armor properties normally restricted to chainmail (Tactician's, especially, comes to mind), but wanting to keep their light armor AC bonus to INT, this one is for you. Has no attribute requirements, and all Bards have the necessary proficiencies by default. 


Armor Proficiency (Scale) (PHB): Mainly for Valorous Bards to improve their AC. Requires STR 13 and CON 13.


Beguiling Enchantment (PHB3): The attack penalty only applies when the enemy attacks you, but it's still an excellent self-defense feat that you'll definitely want if you plan on using Vicious Mockery and a preponderance of Charm encounter powers.


Distant Advantage (PHB2): Cunning and Prescient Bards, in particular, will want to look at this one since they use a lot of ranged attacks.


Implement Focus (E:HFL): Finally, a general tier-scaling feat bonus to implement damage. Yay. However, it's not a high priority for you like it is for a few other classes.


Improved Defenses (E:HFL): It's a matter of when, not if, you're taking this tier-scaling feat bonus to NADs, since your defenses don't scale well as you level up. This feat helps correct that. Note: This feat obsoletes Paragon Defenses (PHB2) and Robust Defenses (PHB2).


Improved Initiative (PHB): More important for Bards than for most other Leaders, especially if you're going to take advantage of the many movement enabling options your class offers.


Melee Training (PHB2): Mostly for Fake Skalds, or anyone looking to use the basic attack-triggered powers, who aren't Eladrins, Tieflings or Paragon Tier Half-Elves. Which I don't recommend as enthusiastically, but if you want to head down that route, this one is essential for you. Of course, it's not a bad choice for melee-focused Bard builds in general.


Nimble Blade (PHB): Extra +1 to attack rolls with light blades with CA that stacks with all other bonuses makes for a must-take if you're using that weapon category.


Oncoming Storm (PHB2): If your prospects include a Lightning Weapon and/or some Arcane Admixture abuses, this one can have some nice uses. (Particularly with Staggering Note.)


Orb Expertise (E:HFL): If you get orb proficiency somehow (being an Eladrin or picking a certain multiclass), using orbs is better overall than wands thanks to the side benefit from this, an extra square on ALL your forced movement attack powers (remember, Battle Song Expertise only applies its forced movement bonus to Bard and Bard PP powers). The tier-scaling feat bonus to attack, of course, is the main course that makes this feat essential.


Restful Healing (PHB2): Makes a use of your Majestic Word or Skald's Aura healing more efficient between encounters. Decent.


Serene Archery (D 386): Annoying deity restriction (Sehanine), but for you CHA/WIS dual-stat Prescient Bards looking for an RBA, here you go.


Silvery Glow (D 386): Annoying deity restriction (Sehanine), but if you qualify and you plan to either use the Permafrost combo (most tempting for those of you using basic attack trigger powers) or join the Radiant Mafia, this is strictly better than Weapon Focus.  


Skill Power (PHB3): Gain an extra skill power at the cost of this feat. It's actually a very good investment if you take it for the right power.


Speed Loader (PHB2): A must for Prescient Bards and ranged Skalds who want to use a superior crossbow.


Staff Expertise (E:HFL): One of the best feats in the all-important Expertise family. If you have proficiency here somehow (Eladrin, applicable MC, White Lotus Dueling Expertise), this feat alone makes the staff a prime implement choice. One of the side benefits prevents enemy OAs for using ranged and area powers, and if you want to pick up the odd weapon power, your staff becomes a reach weapon for such. This one is so good that even if you got your staff proficiency from White Lotus Dueling Expertise, this one should be considered mandatory.


Superior Implement Training (PHB3): No reason at all for Bards of the baton (or the orb, or the staff, should that apply to you somehow) to not use an Accurate version.


Superior Will (E:HFL): All Bards will qualify automatically, which means it's mandatory. Saving versus dazing and stunning at the start of your turns, even if you normally can't end the effect on a save, is a benefit you do not pass up. Period. Especially as a Leader, who really can't afford to be incapacitated. And you'll also get a net +1 gain per tier over the bonus to Will that Improved Defenses will give you.


Toughness (PHB): Tier-scaling increase of your maximum hit points value. Very valuable, especially if you're Valorous. That has the lovely side benefit of increasing your healing surge and bloodied values, as well.


Weapon Focus (PHB): Tier-scaling feat bonus to weapon damage. How high a priority this is greatly depends on how often you plan on using weapon powers. Bards looking to load up on their MBA opportunities and the basic attack-triggered powers (Skalds included) are a lot more likely to care about this one.


Weapon Proficiency (PHB): Likely taken by Prescient Bards to use a superior crossbow. Bastard swords for melee Bards is an option, too, but unless you're aiming for a Striker bent, your standard longsword will do fine.


White Lotus Dueling Expertise (D 402): As long as you keep your attack arsenal limited to Arcane powers and basic attacks, this feat gives the Expertise correction to all attack rolls with a weapon (implement attacks included), and on top of that you even get a free choice of another implement to become proficient with (orb, rod or staff). Good, easy way to get staff proficiency without having to MC (which means Skalds, in particular, will love this).


Wintertouched (PHB): The first half of the famous Lasting Frost synergy. You don't need to take this until Paragon Tier.


Paragon Tier

Agile Opportunist (PHB2): You're usually the one making your allies slide, not sliding yourself. On the other hand, if you're not the only Leader in the party who slides allies ...


Armor Specialization (PHB): Your feat bonus to AC. Most likely, you'll be picking this one for hide (CON 15 needed), which also reduces your armor check penalties. The Valorous have the easiest time picking this up.


Fleet-Footed (PHB): Extra speed is never a bad thing.


Lasting Frost (PHB): Synergistic with Wintertouched to set up combat advantage on every hit with a Cold-keyword attack.


Point-Blank Shot (PHB): Cunning and Prescient Bards, in particular, may want this to ignore everything but total concealment with their ranged attacks.


Psychic Lock (PHB): You've got access to tons of Psychic powers, including at-wills like Vicious Mockery. This just adds insult to injury with those spells via an additional attack roll debuff.


Reserve Maneuver (PHB2): Don't like your paragon path's encounter power? Trade it out for something else after you rest. This feat may not be for everyone, but it's handy for those who want it.


Resounding Thunder (PHB): Mostly for Half-Elves to look at if they took an arcane AoE at-will like Sword Burst or Thunderwave, then outfitted it with Arcane Admixture, if necessary. Awesome in that application.


Solid Sound (PHB): +2 untyped bonus to a NAD for a round when you hit with the Thunder or Force keyword. This one is good for those using a Force Weapon or using Arcane Admixture.


Vexing Flanker (PHB2): All your allies get combat advantage against an enemy you're flanking. Pretty useful, particularly for the Valorous.


War Wizardry (FRPG): Helps make your party-unfriendly spells substantially less party-unfriendly.


Epic Tier

Blind-Fight (PHB): Thwart invisibility and concealment (but not total concealment) on adjacent creatures. Not bad for Valorous Bards, in particular, to consider.


Bow Mastery (PHB2): You're typically not the high-damage sort of class, nor do you come packing tons of effects off crits with a bow or crossbow, so this one isn't quite as necessary for you as it would be for some other classes. That said, you can hardly call it a waste.


Deft Aim (PHB3): If you're a ranged Skald using a bow or crossbow for whatever reason, targeting Reflex with your RBAs is just what you want, and need.


Epic Fortitude/Reflexes/Will (PHB2): +4 to the NAD in question. Stacks with Improved Defenses. You would do well to go for at least one of these. Can make your highest defense extremely hard to hit, and a medium defense from a secondary stat in the high teens-low 20s solid.


Epic Resurgence (PHB): Regain an encounter power on a crit. Nice one, especially if you've expanded your crit range.


Rapid Regeneration (PHB3): Valorous Bards will want this if they have sources of regeneration for themselves.


Superior Initiative (PHB3): You'll likely pick this vital feat up from retraining Improved Initiative, since it's just a higher feat bonus.


Triumphant Attack (PHB): Encounter-long attack roll and defense debuff whenever you crit in melee. Nice for the Valorous, in particular.


Unfettered Stride (PHB): Ignore difficult terrain. Good if you're trained in Acrobatics.


Racial feats

Deva

Heroic Tier


Auspicious Lineage (PHB2): Increases Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes' die to d8, which essentially means a +1 average bonus to the correction provided by that power. Not a bad pick if you can fit it in, but I'd look for feats that give more consistent bonuses to attacks and saves, first.


Battle Intuition (D 374): If you're a Prescient Bard, hold it, love it and call it George. WIS to initiative, and a +2 feat bonus to initiative on top of that, is something you just don't pass up.


Immortal Skill (D 374): Eliminates bad die rolls on your racial power for skill and ability checks. Valuable in a skill-heavy campaign.


Potent Rebirth (PHB2): I'm not too hot on abilities that kick in after you get KO-ed, normally, but an untyped +2 to attack and damage is about as good as that type gets, so it's worth a look. 


Paragon Tier


Ascendant Lineage (PHB2): Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes is not expended if the triggering roll still fails. Due to the variable nature of that racial power, this is a great feat to take to alleviate being on the wrong end of the die. It also lets you use your racial power more aggressively when your triggering roll was very low (say, when you need a 5 or 6 on your MOTL roll to succeed).


Immortal Resilience (D 374): Eliminates bad die rolls on your racial power for saving throws. Requires having Immortal Skill before it, but this one's great all around. 


Epic Tier


Immortal Prowess (D 374): The pinnacle of the Immortal line, this eliminates the bad die rolls on your racial power for attack rolls. If you already took the previous two Immortal feats, definitely take this one if you can.


Transcendant Lineage (PHB2): Roll twice and take the better result for Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes. Really awesome boost for your racial power.


Dragonborn

Heroic Tier


Draconic Spellcaster (AP): Much like Feyborn Charm, victimized heavily by the recent feat bonus classification of the Expertise feats, meaning that this one no longer stacks. It does now give the damage bonuses, but unless you're trying to steer your build in a Striker-ish direction for some reason, you won't really care.


Drow

Paragon Tier


Master of Fire and Darkness (FRPG): Now your two Lolthtouched powers are separate encounter powers. Nice.


Genasi

Heroic Tier


Extra Manifestation (FRPG): Some extra versatility never hurt.


Paragon Tier


Shocking Flame (FRPG): Extra fire or lightning damage on all melee attacks with the right manifestation. Solid.


Stormrider (FRPG): Strictly better than Fleet-Footed with the right manifestations.


Epic Tier


Double Manifestation (FRPG): Manifest two elements at once. Yes, this is awesome.


Gnome

Heroic Tier


Magic of the Mists (AP): Stay hidden with Fade Away when you attack with an arcane power. Nice.


Paragon Tier


Fade Ally (PHB2): Gives your Fade Away power a legitimate leader application by letting an ally turn invisible instead of you.


Surprising Disappearance (PHB2): Combat advantage for the party when you use your Fade Away power. Nice.


Epic Tier


Vanishing Act (PHB2): And the Gnome gets a teleport attached to his Fade Away. Great fun.


Half-Elf

Heroic Tier


Adept Dilletante (D 385): Unlike Combat Virtuoso, this feat also allows you to use Charisma to determine the damage you do with your Dilletante power, which is great for some powers, but not necessary for others. Remember that it counts as a multiclass feat for your Dilletante power's native class, but since you have unlimited multiclassing, that's not a real disadvantage for you.


Paragon Tier


Versatile Master (PHB2): You took Dilletante for a reason. Go all the way and make that power a true at-will.


Halfling

Heroic Tier


Lost in the Crowd (PHB): Plenty of things are bigger than you. A +2 untyped bonus to AC in this case is nice.


Paragon Tier


Underfoot (PHB): If you're trained in Acrobatics, this one is worth a look for the beneficial movement option. You'll fight plenty of Large things.


Human

Heroic Tier


Action Surge (PHB): Take the Expertise feats first, but definitely consider this one after. +3 untyped bonus to all attacks for the action from an action point is just too good to ignore.


Rousing Voice (AP): Grant CHA-mod THPs when an ally uses second wind. Not bad. Better if you have allies with minor-action or less second winds who are likely to use them more often.


Kalashtar

Heroic Tier


Group Mindlink (EPG): Telepathic communication can come in handy a lot.


Epic Tier


Quori Desperation (EPG): Buy yourself a round to heal and/or act when you would've been knocked out. Nice.


Pixie

Heroic Tier 


Streak of Light (HotF): Combat advantage whenever you charge is absolutely perfect for Pixie melee Skalds, especially when looking to trigger nice things like the Dimensional Step or Flash of Distraction line of powers.


Teeny Target (HotF): Put that Tiny size to good use and get partial cover for being in an ally's space.


Paragon Tier


Flitting Harrier (HotF): Entering and exiting enemies' spaces for free can be quite nice to have in the positioning game.


Satyr

Paragon Tier


Powerful Lure (HotF): A strong buff for your racial power, doubling its sliding distance and letting you slide your enemy into hindering terrain. Take it if you can.


Shardmind

Epic Tier


Telepathic Sustenance (PHB3): Neat ability that can be lifesaving in some cases.


Tiefling

Heroic Tier


Hellfire Blood (PHB): An extra +1 untyped bonus to hit with Fire attacks. With the pointless Flaming Weapon nerf in effect, playing with Fire isn't nearly as appealing a choice as it used to be, but if you're going that route, you'll want this for sure.


Imperious Majesty (D 381): Use your Charisma to determine initiative? Yes, please. Combine with Improved Initiative and you'll have your party closing in on your enemies before they can blink.


Stirring Song of Baator (PHR:T): The nerf to the Flaming Weapon, which had been the cornerstone of transforming all your favorite Bard powers into Fire damage, puts a damper on this one quite a bit. The THP generation is still very nice, though, and can justify taking a somewhat weaker power than you had planned, but this is no longer the knockout option it used to be.


Paragon Tier


Glasya's Charming Words (PHR:T): If you have Vicious Mockery and even so much as a plurality of Charm powers, you're taking this. Period. No way you're passing up on dominating crits.


Hellfire of Mephistopheles (PHR:T): Errata-ed so that it no longer creates vulnerability. That brings its value down a ton, but if you're playing with Fire anyway for Stirring Song of Baator (itself now a weakened option from its zenith), you might still want to fit this in to make your attacks reduce the fairly common Fire resistance.


Epic Tier


Royal Command of Asmodeus (PHR:T): If you pick up powers that stun directly, somehow, this one is incredible, turning those into domination powers. Resourceful Magicians, particularly those Cunning Bards who went the Wizard path, should consider this mandatory, as should Eternal Seekers looking to poach Wizard stun powers.


Eberron Dragonmark feats

Mark of Healing (EPG): Saving throws attached to all your healing powers. Yeah, that's kinda good.


Mark of Scribing (EPG): Strictly better than Linguist. More languages and copy ritual scrolls in half the time.


Mark of Storm (EPG): Awesome with Staggering Note, a Lightning Weapon or Arcane Admixture use.


Mark of Warding (EPG): Boosts the effects of all your powers that grant defense bonuses by 1. You've got access to a lot of those.

Crescendo: Paragon Paths


Valorous Bards will pick up War Chanter, no questions asked, which is everything they want in a PP and probably more. Bards of other virtues have nothing to complain about, though. They get to pick from a diverse range of good-to-great PPs, one of which is bound to fit their build concept. Bards with a preponderence of attacks vs. Will (often true of the Cunning) gravitate toward Life Singer, and those who multiclass into other Arcane classes might want to look at Resourceful Magician.


Bard PPs

Blessed Psalmist (D 376): This one is for Bards who multiclassed with any Divine class. The best part of this one is getting the full Channel Divinity of the Divine class you took and the ability to use your Bard implements with their implement powers, too. That even opens up the ability to take Divinity feats, a few of which are pretty amazing. The daily power, Brilliant Symphony, is also fantastic, forcing all foes in its huge burst to choose between domination for a round or save-ends stun when it hits.


Cunning Prevaricator (AP): Virtue of Deceit is free combat advantage with your Virtue. The other features and the encounter attack power revolve around granting invisibility, which is very good regardless and especially awesome when someone is Stealth-trained. The per-encounter utility power Trickery's Reward, now that it's been fixed, is a good way to either make an attack against an ally miss or grant them free healing.


Daring Blade (D 376): For Skalds (who qualify automatically) and for O-Bards who multiclassed with a Martial class. Daring Improvisation is even better than Combat Virtuoso as it pertains to Martial melee powers, since it also lets you use your CHA for the damage on the powers as well. Blade Feint at Lv. 16 makes the combat application of the Bluff skill a more than viable option. The powers aren't spectacular, but those features make up for it.


Euphonic Bow (AP): The advent of Songbows has rendered this one mostly insignificant.


Grave Caller (AP): This one is geared toward Bards who want some Striker in their arsenal. Their features and powers all revolve around the once-per-encounter deathmark from the Lv. 11 feature. The Lv. 16 feature, Path to the Grave, functions like a limited Avenger's Oath of Enmity, which is decent. It helps to train in Stealth somehow so you can take full advantage of the per-encounter utility, Cloak of Sound.


Half-Elf Emissary (AP): Obviously, for Half-Elves only, and it's geared toward Valorous Bards. Skilled Speech is very, very good in conversational skill challenges, so if you're in a low-combat campaign you might look at this. Otherwise, stick with War Chanter.


Karmic Shaper (AP): The highlights of this Prescience-only path are Karmic Strike, which lets an ally get a free extra attack in on an enemy who triggers your Virtue, and the extra-fun daily power, End of Luck. Warp Karma is also a good utility power for helping an ally try again on a crucial attack such as a daily power, while possibly making an enemy miss him. You can't go wrong with this one.


Life Singer (AP): Serene Will, the Lv. 16 feature, is easily the highlight of this path. Some of the best Bard powers are anti-Will attacks, and even if said attack isn't pacifist, the fact that it's a reroll every single time it misses any enemy is still just too awesome. The daily utility power, Inspired Solutions, can come in handy in a trap-filled combat zone, or perhaps to let your allies make use of their skills in combat such as Bluff that they may not have used otherwise. The daily, Soothing Song, may not set up coup de grace opportunities, but you can still do some clever things with it, like give your party a chance to reposition themselves, rob the enemies of their items while they sleep, put some binds on them, and if they're your size or smaller, even pick them up and move them around into compromising positions ... or into some sort of hazard.


Master Skald (HotF): This one is Skald-exclusive, and while it doesn't exactly set the world on fire, it's still very solid. Using your action point to give your Striker another standard action instead of you can really come in handy. The encounter power is very nice, a 5 + CHA modifier THPs buff for everyone in your aura as well as a save when you hit with a basic attack. The daily is also pretty good, letting you hand out a roll-twice attack every round for a whole fight.


Mythic Skald (D 376): For Bards who multiclassed with a Primal class, and it's geared toward melee. Hero's Blood is an attack and damage buff that is great in fights with several standard enemies, but not so great against Solos and Elites. The powers are pretty good, though. Skald's Tale can result in a nice double attack every encounter, and the daily Manifest the Mighty Hero is a very solid buff for yourself or for an ally. It's nothing that will steer Valorous Bards away from War Chanter, but for melee-inclined Skalds, this one is a nice pick.


Resourceful Magician (D 376): For Bards who multiclassed into another Arcane class, this one is fantastic. With every one of those classes you took entry feats for, you get a little extra from their class and some implement usage privileges. Diverse Study lets you poach spells from your multiclasses. Any Bard can nab Sorcerer and Warlock powers, and Cunning Bards with an INT high enough to attack can feel free to take Wizard, Artificer and Swordmage powers as well (note that Combat Virtuoso doesn't work with powers gained from this). The encounter power, Twinned Spell, can result in either a full-fledged double attack with an at-will, or just a do-over on an encounter power that missed all targets; very good either way.


Student of the Seven (PHB2): Requires you to commit fully to multiclassing, including swapping for encounter and daily powers, to be worth it. It pays off pretty well, though. Versatile Action, the action point feature, lets you recover encounter powers from multiclass feats and still take your extra action, making it the highlight of this PP. Daily Mastery can come in handy, and the powers are solid enough.


Summer Rhymer (PHB2): For Cunning Bards only, and it has a lot to offer. Action-point free teleporting. CHA-mod bonus to all Bard healing spells. More accurate punishment against an enemy who triggered your Virtue. Solid attack and utility powers that all have HUGE burst areas for their beneficial effects and zones.


Voice of Thunder (PHB2): Well, one of these paths had to be the runt of the litter. To be fair, the +2 to an ally's death saves and the encounter power Rolling Echo are solid, but the rest just doesn't add up. Even Arcane Admixture can't save this one, and an application that would make the utility useful is not the best application of that feat anyway.


War Chanter (PHB2): For Valorous Bards only, and it's the only path they'll ever need. The action point feature that grants all allies within 5 squares of you CON-mod untyped bonuses to attack rolls for a round. The ability to spend 2 action points in an encounter. The encounter power, Victorious Smite, which hit or miss is a guaranteed double attack involving an ally. The daily power, Visions of Victory, which results in an automatic hit of some sort from a melee ally. It's all win.


 


Magna Alumnae: Epic Destinies


General/Bard EDs

Archlich (AP): More suitable for Wizards than for you, but you do have to like the hefty resistances against necrotic and poison you automatically get, and the benefits of having a phylactery.


Archspell (AP): If you're not multiclassing into Wizard (for Archmage), this is a fine enough consolation prize, including a +2 bonus to attack with your daily Signature Spell and, at Lv. 30, the ability to use it as an encounter power. The utility is great, too, with its huge resistance to all damage, and it's something you'll want to cast at the start of every encounter.


Darklord (D 372): Nice after-death ability, and the capstone is good fun. Solid choice.


Deadly Trickster (PHB): If you're trained in Bluff or Acrobatics, you might go for this. Solid features, albeit somewhat limited in use. Epic Trick is an awesome utility, though.


Demigod/Chosen (PHB/FRPG/DP): Divine Miracle, that infamous capstone, finally got toned down so that now it only recovers one encounter power in a fight. That's still pretty good, though, especially combined with all the other ways to recover encounter powers. And the +2 to two stats of your choice, a solid near-death recovery mechanic and access to some great utilities still make this one great. Just no longer overpowering. The default Demigod's Divine Regeneration is an insane regeneration spell. NOTE: As of Divine Power, you apparently have to multiclass into a Divine class to take the Chosen variants of this destiny.


Destined Scion (E:HFK): +2 to two stats of your choice, an extra, vital-for-your-role +1 to attack rolls on top of that and a +2 untyped bonus to saves. A no-nonsense ED that's about as good a choice as any. The utilities won't dazzle you, but they're handy.


Eternal Seeker (PHB): This one has come a long way, and it has infinite room to grow. It's about as good as you can get without crossing the line into abuse.


Fatesinger (PHB2): Destiny Fulfilled is best used on an ally with plenty of AoEs or focus-fire multiattacks to increase their chances of hitting and you getting your action point back. Fate's Clarity turns your Majestic Word into a very good offensive buff as well. And Fragment of the Song is a zone with a nice size and is even movable, and does wonderful things with the entire party's action points. Very solid destiny, overall, even if the capstone is only average.


Feyliege (AP): A specialized destiny for Gnomes, Eladrin and Half-Elves, mainly. Not a bad ED, but nothing really special, either. The capstone, which is domination on Charm-power crits, is certainly appealing, but when Tieflings have been doing that since Paragon Tier, it doesn't exactly inspire.


Harbinger of Doom (PHB2): Shield of Ill Fortune is about the only remotely attractive thing in this destiny.


Immanence (AP): Mostly deals with resistances to damage types that can trigger in every fight in which those are involved. Fair enough for living longer in those fights, but you're not going to do your party any favors out of the ordinary until the capstone, and even then only to adjacent allies. Clearly geared more toward Strikers and Defenders than you.


Indomitable Champion (E:HFL): +2 to two stats of your choice, extra hit points and extra NADs are as good a package as it gets. The utilities aren't completely earth-shattering, but they're handy when stuff happens. Another extremely solid, no-nonsense ED.


Keybearer (D 372): Traveler's Tricks is nice, as is the capstone that gives you phasing. Reality Distortion, on the other hand, kills this one. It would be pretty awesome if it weren't for the fact that it affects your allies as well as your enemies.


Lord of Fate (AP): For the unaligned. It used to be a whole lot more powerful, but now it's just average. However, the daily zone utility, Golden Mean, can be very effective in your hands, since you tend to have powers that both boost your allies' attack rolls and debuff your enemies' attacks (and defenses, too).


Lorekeeper (PHB2): Only Cunning and Prescient Bards will qualify. The best part of this destiny is easily the capstone, Lorekeeper's Revelation, which lets you take two daily utilities and make them encounter utilities. (How does combining Climactic Chord and Haste in the same round every single fight sound?) With Arcana automatically trained and pertaining to a fair number of monsters, you'll make the rest of this destiny worth it, getting the combat bonuses from Lorekeeper's Wisdom and Lorekeeper's Cunning pretty often. With all the knowledge skills on your class skill list you can expand this to cover a good chunk of the bestiary. Lorekeeper's Cunning is great for rituals, too.


Magister (AP): The update to the capstone has lowered this ED's stock a lot. Now it doesn't work for rituals that affect enemies. Nothing else this ED has is enough to keep it afloat.


Planeshaper (D 372): Using an encounter power twice is great, as is removing an enemy from the fight for a turn on a crit. Shape Reality, the capstone, adds a whole lot of Controller to your arsenal. Can't go wrong with this one.


Prince of Hell (D 372): This positively-evil inclined destiny is pretty interesting. You get a +2 to Charisma and can teleport and summon some minions. Not the best you can do, though.


Punisher of the Gods (D 372/DA 09): Seems to have stabilized, but its current form, while good against one foe per encounter, is still a shadow of its former selves. Yes, that plural was intentional.


Sage of Ages (AP): The Lv. 24 feature Keeper's Prescience, a free d20 replacement once per every single turn, is one of the best features in the game (on a side note, it makes a perfect capstone for Eternal Seekers). It works for attacks, saves and skill checks. Cunning Bards can take full advantage of the also-great per-encounter utility, Trick of Knowledge, especially with the +6 untyped bonus to Arcana from Paragon of Learning. Reverse Time is a solid death-recovery capstone, too.


Storm Sovereign (D 372): Pretty underwhelming.


Racial EDs

Tiefling


Heir to the Empire (PHR:T): Tiefling Cunning Bards will have a field day with this one. +2 to both relevant stats, a nice boost to Infernal Wrath, a quite frankly incredible utility that lets you turn one dead enemy into your puppet for free every encounter, and a capstone that lets you dominate one enemy every fight for a round because they hit you in melee. Perfect.

Jack of All Trades: Multiclassing


 General Guidelines

- You don't necessarily need to worry about the attack stat of a power when swapping. You have Combat Virtuoso to cover for that. In many cases, the stat that determines the rider effects will be more vital.


- Remember that paragon path powers are NOT covered by Combat Virtuoso.


- Also keep in mind that, since Essentials' release, that entry feats grant you that class' implement proficiency for ALL implement powers if you don't have it already. That's important for those of you who like to use both weapon and implement powers, in particular (*cough* O-Bards go Swordmage).


- If you're going to take an entry feat that grants you a ritual casting feature, remember that you can take Alchemist with that and not have it go completely to waste.


- Try not to take an entry feat that trains Arcana, since you're already trained in that automatically. Sometimes, however, it can't be helped, especially if it either has a great extra to compensate or if the other options are simply worse.


- Generally, you should avoid swapping for powers that require a class feature you can't access for optimal use. A few exceptions to this DO exist, however.


 


General Power Source Options

Divine classes


Key paragon paths, Forgotten Realms

Heartwarder (FRPG): Must worship Sune. Sune's Touch lets others benefit when you use a healing surge yourself. Also great stuff are the powers. Siren Voice is domination every encounter, which is awesome. Sune's Shield is a very good utility that allows you and an ally, or two allies, to take damage for each other on a case-by-case basis for the encounter.


Morninglord (FRPG): Must worship Amaunator. The Lv. 16 feature Burning Radiance is the heart of this path and makes it capable of incredible damage; it can be triggered from a Radiant weapon, or any Radiant at-will attack you may have acquired somehow (say, Half-Elf's Dilletante). This one is especially devastating if your allies deal radiant damage.


Key epic destinies

Saint (DP):  +2 to all NADs, immune to domination, save-granting powers and healing powers serving their respective double-duties on adjacent allies, and enhanced first aid all make for an excellent healer-inclined destiny. Be sure to swap for a divine healing power or two so you can take advantage of the extra healing from the capstone.


 



Primal classes


Key feats

Epic Tier


Second Skin (PP): If you took Hide Armor Specialization in Paragon, retrain that one for this feat, which grants you a +2 feat bonus to AC.


Key epic destinies

Reincarnate Champion (PP): Well, well, well, this one's a lot of fun. Accessing nice things like Fey Step, Elven Accuracy and Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes no matter what race you are is lovely indeed.


World Tree Guardian (PP): Nearly constant 5 + CON mod damage resistance from the start, and massive constant regeneration as a capstone make this one worth considering for the Valorous. Solid Leader-geared daily utility, too.


 


Specific Classes

Artificer


Despite the class using INT for its attack rolls, the other Arcane Leader's abilities are used almost exclusively by Valorous and Prescient Bards. Combat Virtuoso covers for any attack rolls, and that leaves the riders on such powers, almost all of which are reliant on CON or WIS. And there are definitely some great powers here.


Entry feats

Student of Artifice (EPG): A daily use of Healing Infusion. Requires INT 13. Unlike some entry feats for other Leader classes, this one is not redundant for you at all, and is actually really damn useful, essentially giving the party one extra healing surge in the pool per day. Curative Admixture is best for the Prescient, while Resistive Formula is just plain amazing for the Valorous. Only downside is the wasted redundancy of Arcana training, but that's a small price to pay.


Key powers

Lv. 3 Encounter, Weapon


Repulsion Strike (EPG): Better for Valorous Bards than anything they get on their own at this level. Can be done melee or ranged and inflicts a huge attack bonus debuff to the enemy (CON-mod).


Lv. 6 Utility


Regeneration Infusion (EPG): CON-mod worth of regeneration for the encounter. Fantastic for the Valorous.


Lv. 9 Daily


Radiant Sigil (EPG): Another Radiant keyword weapon buff. This one heals the wielder their CON mod in hit points every time the buffed weapon hits. Good for Valorous Bards, especially if someone can create radiant vulnerability in the party.


Lv. 10 Utility


Slick Concoction (EPG): Per-encounter battlefield rearrangement as a minor action. Slides your allies, which means it's Agile Opportunist-friendly, too. Lovely.


Lv. 16 Utility


Iron-Hide Infusion (EPG): +4 untyped bonus to AC for a round every encounter is great.


Lv. 22 Utility


Bag of the Four Winds (EPG): Like Slick Concoction before it, a per-encounter, minor-action battlefield rearrangement that also happens to be Agile Opportunist-friendly since it slides the party. This one affects you, too. Very nice for Prescients.


Lv. 23 Encounter, Weapon


Prismatic Strike (EPG): Three weapon attacks, melee or ranged, one against each NAD. That's great. The possibility to knock prone, push, keep them from standing and inflict nasty defuffs to attack rolls. That's incredible. Both Valorous and Prescient Bards have a lot to love from borrowing this one.


 


Avenger


The recent adjustment to a certain entry feat has made Avenger multiclassing not nearly as attractive. The class itself doesn't have much to look at powers- or feats-wise. You do get holy symbol proficiency.


Entry feats

Disciple of Divine Wrath (PHB2): Trains Religion only, but in combat this is actually the better feat now since its Oath of Enmity lasts until the end of your next turn, which can cover multiple attacks in those two rounds. WIS 13 required.


Hero of Faith (DP): The mighty hath fallen. The Oath of Enmity from this feat only lasts until you hit the enemy once. Requires WIS 15, too. At least this feat allows you to train any Avenger class skill, rather than just Religion.


 


Barbarian


Opens up a couple of interesting options, although you probably won't accrue enough personal damage bonuses to make this class' best Striker powers worthwhile.


Entry feats

Berserker's Fury (PHB2): Training in any one of the Barbarian's class skills. Also gives you a daily free action damage buff that lasts a whole encounter. Requires STR 13 and CON 13.


Key class feats

Heroic Tier


Hurl Weapon (PP): Opens up the possibility to use at least a shortsword with ranged weapon powers, an interesting option for Prescients or any Bard who wants to cherry-pick such powers. If you also pick up the Ranger entry feat Two-Blade Warrior, the longsword becomes a hurl option.


 


Cleric


Some nice healing-related feats here, as well as a pretty attractive PP. You gain holy symbol proficiency, if that matters to you.


Entry feats

Initiate of the Faith (PHB): WIS 13 needed. Training in Religion and a once-per-day use of Healing Word. Not too impressive, but unless you're a Prescient Bard you have no alternative.


Divine Healer (DP): This is the best option for Prescient Bards if they plan to swap for a Cleric healing spell, such as Bastion of Health or Word of Vigor. Worthless for the others though, since they won't be able to get a good Healer's Lore bonus. Trains Heal.


Key class feats

Epic Tier


Shared Healing (DP): Pools the entire party's healing surges together. Works with all your powers that trigger healing surges. Awesome.


Key paragon paths

Divine Oracle (PHB): Foresight's roll twice for initiative and prevention of surprise are both awesome, even making up for not having Perception or Insight trained. Prophecy of Doom can lead to an auto-crit once per encounter. A great one for Prescient Bards, who stand a chance to hit with the daily power.


 


Druid


Considering the Bard has its roots in close association with the Druid (both in 1e AD&D and in real-life history), you wonder how well you can accomplish multiclassing here. Answer: Pretty damn well, actually. Especially if you're looking to dominate enemies early and often, and even if not, there's a pretty sweet utility for you.


Entry feats

Initiate of the Old Faith (PHB2): WIS 13 to qualify, and you get training in Nature, Druid implement use (this includes staffs) and Wild Shape. You can use this Wild Shape power itself just like a real Druid would, but you only get a per-encounter use of a beast form at-will with this.


Key powers

Lv. 6 Utility


Eagle's Splendor (E:HFK): All-day power bonus to your CHA attacks and Will defense? Yes, please.


Lv. 7 Encounter


Charm Beast (HotF): Stick this one in the "what were they thinking" files. An encounter domination power in Heroic Tier. Yup, you read that right. And if you miss, you still daze the enemy. Too bad Staff of Sleep and Charm only works with Arcane Charm powers and thus doesn't apply to this one. Oh well, can't have everything.


Lv. 23 Encounter


Dominate Beast (HotF): A domination encounter power that is essentially Reliable (as in, not expended on a miss). That's all you need to know.


 


Fighter


A particular entry feat is very appealing to the melee Bards and Skalds looking to maximize their off-standard MBA opportunities. This one is also worth it to pick up for off-defender powers and certain powers with Striker-esque applications. The Daring Blade paragon path works very well with this, and in addition, this class has some very damaging stance powers that work even without Combat Virtuoso or Daring Blade.


Entry feats

Battle Awareness (MP): Melee Bards and Skalds looking to load up on off-standard MBA opportunities will definitely want to shoot for this one. Training in any Fighter skill, and a per-encounter immediate interrupt basic attack against an adjacent foe for shifting or not including you in an attack. The only thing that might give some Bards pause is the requirement of both STR 13 and WIS 13, which can be a rather steep price for some builds.


Wrathful Warrior (MP2): A far cry from Battle Awareness, but for many Bards looking to MC Fighter, this is a more realistic feat to obtain thanks to it only requiring a CON 13. And CON-mod THPs once per encounter for being hit in melee is a neat little bonus. That said, if you do qualify for Battle Awareness later on (thanks to say, Paragon/Epic Tier auto stat boosts), I'd retrain this one for it.


 


Invoker


Some pretty nice utilities and attack powers here.


Entry feats

Acolyte of Divine Secrets (PHB2): WIS 13 required. As for the per-encounter Invoker at-will, you've got several good choices, including Mantle of the Infidel, Visions of Blood, and Grasping Shards. Trains Religion.


Divine Secretkeeper (DP): WIS 13 and INT 13 required. Lets you train History instead of the compulsory Religion of the other entry feat. Remember you can take Alchemist with the Ritual Casting class feature you get. A fair choice, but overall, I prefer the Invoker at-will you get from Acolyte.


Key powers

Lv. 6 Utility


Demand Justice (PHB2): Force an enemy to reroll a save and possibly make him fail. Perfect.


Lv. 29 Daily


Word of the Gods (PHB2): Sure, you have your own domination spell, but does your domination spell affect everyone in a close 5 blast? Didn't think so.


 


Paladin


Some really good feats, utilities and attack powers here. Some of those are just as suitable for your natural Leader and Controller roles as the Paladin's natural Defender role. A lot of the Paladin's powers are Charisma-based; the ones that are Strength-based can still be taken care of with Combat Virtuoso. Just remember that some of the powers use WIS to determine the rider, so unless you're the rare Prescient who mixes it up in melee, be wary. You get holy symbol proficiency here as well. Tieflings who want to play with MBA-triggered powers should MC here for Wrath of the Crimson Legion.


Entry feats

Soldier of the Faith (PHB): You get a per-encounter use of Divine Challenge, which is perfect for off-tanking, and you can train any of the Paladin's class skills, too. Prefered more by the Valorous, who are more likely to swing the STR 13 required since they probably want that for scale proficiency, anyway, and will have the healing surges and hit points more suitable for the off-tanking this feat is geared towards.


Walker of the Dark Path (D 400): The Blackguard entry feat, which still counts as the Paladin class, this one gives you a skill training from the Blackguard's list (which differs a bit from the actual Paladin), as well as a per-encounter CHA-boost to damage on an enemy you have CA against and a daily use of the Blackguard's pretty decent Shrowd of Shadow power. Best part of this one, however, is that it has no stat requirements, whatsoever, so any Bard can easily pluck it. Bards who want some Paladin goods but have no intention of off-tanking will want to flock to this feat.



Key powers

Lv. 2 Utility


Bless Weapon (DP): If you're traveling with a character who can force radiant vulnerability, this daily is perfect with its 18-20 crits.


Virtue (DP): A per-encounter utility that is pre-emptive healing at its finest for yourself, granting you your healing surge's worth of temp HPs for the upcoming encounter. Scales beautifully for a utility had this early. Lets you last longer and makes you more likely to use your Majestic Words on other party members.


Lv. 16 Utility


Divine Aegis (DP): A daily stance that results in +2 untyped bonuses to all defenses for you and nearby allies. Which stacks with all the power bonuses you like to dish out.


Lv. 23 Encounter, Implement


Demand Respect (DP): Immediate interrupt that blinds and knocks down the enemy for attacking your ally if it hits. Perfect off-defender power.


Lv. 25 Daily, Weapon


Discipline the Unruly (DP): Another excellent off-defender power that punishes enemies within 5 squares with a lot of radiant damage and blinding. You can sustain your walking blinding battery mode with minor actions.


Lv. 27 Encounter, Weapon


Stunning Smite (PHB): It's a STR-based power, but that's what you have Combat Virtuoso for. You can potentially stun everybody next to you, all you need to do is land that first hit. This attacks Will, too, so it will hit often. Be a Life Singer for certain mayhem.


Key class feats

Heroic Tier, Tiefling


Wrath of the Crimson Legion (D 381): Gets you the fully CHA-based MBA if you want to be a Fake Skald or just have a good MBA for triggering the Dimensional Step or Flash of Distraction lines. Also gives you a mass-Divine Sanction power in place of your Infernal Wrath for when you want to off-tank for a round.


Paragon Tier


Hero's Poise (D 388): With a Charisma as high as yours, granting a save bonus to all your allies for making a save yourself is absolutely splendid.


 


Ranger


Can see some use, even if you're not likely to deal the big damage with the Ranger's best powers. Prescients will be able to take advantage of the many ranged powers and utilities with WIS-based riders. Ranger multiclassing is also an easy way to train Stealth.


Entry feats

Two-Blade Warrior (MP): If you dual-wield, you might want this one for an off-hand heavy blade. Requires STR 13 and DEX 13. Also trains a Ranger skill. Also note that this has synergy with the Barbarian feat Hurl Weapon to allow you to use ranged weapon powers with a heavy blade. Just a thought.


Warrior of the Wild (PHB): Training in a Ranger skill, and a Hunter's Quarry that can last two rounds. Go with this one if you don't dual-wield. Requires only either one of STR 13 or DEX 13.


 


Rogue


Some good attack powers for those of you using light blades or crossbows, some of which have Charisma for riders.


Entry feats

Ruthless Efficiency (MP): Completely obsoleted now. And it wasn't good to begin with.


Sneak of Shadows (PHB): If you need to train Thievery, this is your best bet. DEX 13 needed, and also gives you a per-encounter Sneak Attack.


Sly Dodge (MP): Solid. Requires DEX 13 and CHA 13, trains you in Bluff or Intimidate, and once per encounter you essentially get to move wherever you want in little fear of OAs.


Twilight Adept (MP2): Hands down THE Rogue entry feat to take if you want to train Stealth. And you get to experience the benefits of the nice Rogue feature Cunning Sneak for a round every encounter as an added bonus. Requires either DEX 13 or INT 13, making it a perfect fit for Gnome Cunning Bards.


Key powers

Lv. 2 Utility


Switcheroo (MP2): Swap places with an adjacent ally at-will. Remember that when you swap places, you slide your ally. If said ally has Agile Opportunist, he gets an immediate-action attack.


Lv. 9 Daily, Melee


Knockout (PHB): Nothing sets things up better than knocking someone unconscious. Let a real Striker or someone with a high-damage daily follow up for a coup de grace.


Lv. 23 Encounter, Ranged


Steel Entrapment (PHB): Close blast 5 immobilization. Nothing quite like stopping a small army in its tracks.



 


Shaman


With the newer, better implement rules, multiclassing here is now an interesting and potentially effective option. Some nice utilities and attack powers, and having a Spirit Companion can be quite handy.


Entry feats

Spirit Talker (PHB2): Trains Nature, grants a standard-action Call Spirit Companion (note that this is NOT the same thing as granting the Companion Spirit feature), and limited uses of an at-will and Speak With Spirits. WIS 13 required. The Spirit Companion is there for certain utility powers you may want to cast, but it's generally not something you can rely on the way a real Shaman would.


Key powers

Utility 2


Protective Roots (PP): Does require your Spirit Companion, but CON-mod damage resistance to everything for potentially the whole party for a whole encounter is too good to ignore for the Valorous.


 


Sorcerer


Some utilities and class feats you may want here.


Entry feats

Arcane Prodigy (PHB2): The less stat-intensive of the two (you qualify for it automatically, for all intents and purposes), but the benefits are meager: Wasted Arcana training and a paltry per-encounter damage boost.


Soul of Sorcery (AP): Permanent resist 5 to a damage type of your choice. Easily the better of the two qualifying feats if you can afford the STR 13 and CHA 13 required.


Key powers

Lv. 16 Utility


Avatars of Chaos (AP): This daily is a whole lot of fun. It gives you (well, your essence) a lot of freedom to be where you need to be on the battlefield, and potential +1 untyped bonus to attack rolls. In addition, it doubles as a "live longer" utility since you can't take damage yourself until all 4 images are gone. Great stuff.


Draconic Majesty (PHB2): Become a walking zone of difficult terrain and attack debuff for a round every encounter. Awesome, just as long as you have any sort of positive STR modifier.


Key class feats

Paragon Tier


Sorcerous Vision (AP): Cunning Bards will want to snatch this one right up to make Perception and Insight checks with their Arcana. They can even go ahead and retrain Perception and Insight for other skills now.


 


Swordmage


The only reason this isn't mandatory in general now is because Skalds don't get to multiclass with everything in sight. For O-Bards looking to mix weapon and implement powers, this IS mandatory. Take one of the entry feats for this class, and you get to use any sword of your choice for all your implement powers (as opposed to being limited just to Songblades). It doesn't get any better than that. Cunning Fake Skalds also need this MC for Intelligent Blademaster. Aside from that obvious perk, you get access to some nice power swaps and feats here.


Entry feats

Blade Initiate (FRPG): The most important part of this is, of course, the implement proficiency in heavy and light blades. Arcana training is wasted, but the free daily bonus to AC is pretty nice. it's the less stat-intensive of the two entry feats, with only an INT 13 required.


Heart of the Blade (AP): Also grants you the all-important implement proficiency in heavy/light blades. This feat actually gives you a skill training that won't go to waste, but Swordbond is a highly situational class feature, at best. So your decision is essentially between wasting a skill and getting a daily boost to AC, or getting an extra skill but a weak feature as a bonus. About even, if you ask me. This one is also more stat-intensive, requiring CON 13 and INT 13.


Key powers

Lv. 2 Utility


Channeling Shield (AP): Almost like stealing a per-encounter instance of the Aegis of Shielding benefit. No, even better, because it works for attacks against yourself as well as allies, and doesn't require you to mark anybody. Perfecto.


Lv. 16 Utility


Borrowed Confidence (AP): The apple of many a Resourceful Magician's eye, thanks to the rerolls of all attacks and saves for a full round, every single encounter. Goes wonderfully with AoEs, especially. The fact that it fills what is a rather tepid utility level in the Bard's own arsenal is an added bonus.



Key class feats

Heroic Tier


Eladrin Swordmage Advance (AP): For Eladrin, a free melee basic attack with Fey Step is still really good, even if its infamously broken application is no more. If you took basic attack-triggered powers of the Dimensional Step or Flash of Distraction lines, this one can do some very special things.


Intelligent Blademaster (FRPG): A foundation feat for Cunning Fake Skalds, or just any Cunning Bard who wants a good MBA and wants to use powers in the Dimensional Step or Flash of Distraction family. Your basic attacks with heavy and light blades become fully INT-based, attack and damage. And not only does this work for MBAs, it also works for RBAs with a Farbond Spellblade, making for a viable ranged Fake Skald.


 


Warlock


Prospective Bard Taxis will take this multiclass to enter the cornerstone PP of that build concept. Charmers will also find some serious goods multiclassing here.


Entry feats

Pact Initiate (PHB): Still the general entry feat of choice. Training in any Warlock skill, and you choose a pact and get a per-encounter use of a pact-related at-will. Pick Fey if you want Eyebite.


Student of Malediction (AP): Only take this in addition to, never in lieu of, Pact Initiate. The Curse can last all the way until the enemy is dead if you choose never to apply the damage.


Key powers

Lv. 7 Encounter


Mire the Mind (Fey) (PHB): Like Eyebite, except it makes all of your allies invisible to the target as well. This one is grand.


Lv. 10 Utility


Ethereal Sidestep (PHH1): At-will teleporting as a move action. With the usual enhancers that 1-square teleport becomes a whole lot more. Bard Taxis will fall in love with this one.


Key paragon paths

Entrancing Mystic (AP): The Life Singer's main competition for a Charmer's attention. The 11th level feature Mystic Rapture is the main sell, slapping down an automatic -5 debuff to saves against Charm spells (and still a -2 against everything else) just for being within 3 squares of you. That's deadly. At 16th level you also get a +1 to attack with Charm spells. Decent powers, too.


Evermeet Warlock (FRPG): The final and arguably the most defining piece to the Bard Taxi puzzle. The Lv. 16 feature means that you can take any teleportation power you have and take an ally with you. If you're building the Taxi, that means you'll have a ton of teleports thanks to the feats Bardic Wayfarer (don't forget your own self-teleportation effect), Walk among the Fey and the bevy of sliding powers in your class' arsenal. And then there's the additive effect that feature has with Queen's Clemency.


 


Warlord


A very good fit, considering a lot of the powers here accomplish similar objectives to yours. If you just need that extra beatdown power, or that extra mass-movement power, or what have you in your arsenal, this is a great place to look. A lot of the powers here work well even without any Presence benefit. All Bards will make great use of the Charisma-rider powers, and melee-inclined Cunning Bards will make good use of the Intelligence-rider powers as well.


Entry feats

Bravura Leader (MP2): Typically, you should take Resourceful Leader, instead. The damage bonus from that one is almost as good as this, and your ally doesn't have to give up combat advantage. However, one thing you might want to keep in mind, if you have the room later on, is that this feat's benefits do stack with Resourceful Leader.


Resourceful Leader (MP2): The Warlord multiclass feat to rule them all, and a CHA 13 qualifies for it, so you have no excuse to take anything else in place of this one. Skill training from the Warlord list, plus an ally that spends an action point either gets a nice damage bonus if he hits with his attack, or a solid amount of THPs if he misses. Like the other Warlord MC feats from Martial Power 2, these benefits aren't limited to once per encounter. Simply impressive.


Key powers

Lv. 1 Daily


Lamb to the Slaughter (D 381): A beatdown power at Lv. 1. Awesome if your party is melee-heavy and the best choice for non-Cunning Bards.


Lead the Attack (PHB): Perfect Solo-assault power for the Cunning, who can grant huge attack bonuses to the whole party with this.


Lv. 3 Encounter


Devastating Offensive (D 381): Even without the Presence benefit, the slide of an enemy and an ally, followed by a free action attack, is marvelous. In Paragon Tier, if the ally you slide is an Agile Opportunist, he gets two attacks. Very nice.


Lv. 6 Utility


Reorient the Axis (MP2): Per-encounter mass-shifting based on your Intelligence. Cunning Bards will want this map-rearrangement power, at least for a few levels.


Lv. 10 Utility


Instant Planning (MP): Likely, you'll want to use this when your allies are in position to tee off on one enemy. All Bards can still grant that lovely CHA-mod power bonus to the whole party's attack rolls to set up certain mayhem that round.


Lv. 13 Encounter


Invitational Assault (D 381): Devastating Offensive, Mark II. Same potential for a triple flurry if your ally is an Agile Opportunist. This'll tide you over until Lv. 17.


Pincer Maneuver (MP): Send a couple melee allies to flank a foe and beat him up. Good even without Prescence.


Lv. 15 Daily


War Master's Assault (MP): If you're loading up on beatdown powers, you definitely want this one. CHA-mod to all attack rolls from this, too.


Lv. 16 Utility


Help or Hinder (MP2): A Controller-aid that just made you jealous. Both Cunning and Prescient Bards will look at this per-encounter utility to prolong an enemy's misery from a save-ends condition for free. Oh, yeah, it can also boost an ally's save, instead, if that ever matters to you.


Lv. 17 Encounter


Hail of Steel (PHB/D 397): The most infamous beatdown power in 4e, and for good reason. And it's 100% multiclass-friendly. (The attacks this triggers are free actions now, though. They weren't originally.)


Lv. 25 Daily


Relentless Assault (PHB): Warlords love it, and you will, too. The important part of this happens hit or miss; a full-party beatdown once per any given round if anyone scores a crit. True story: Before errata the beatdown happened on every single crit.


Lv. 27 Encounter


A Plan Comes Together (D 384): Two guaranteed free-action attacks as long as you have two capable melee allies. And the possibility of dazing and knocking prone, to boot. Amazing.


Insightful Assault (MP2): Awesome. Enact a four-man beatdown of an enemy with either melee or ranged basic attacks for free. You don't even have to hit the enemy to trigger it. Sort of an encounter version of War Master's Assault. Great even without the Presence benefit.


Key epic destinies


Warmaster (MP): An awesome Leader destiny that grants extra party actions with your action points, and the capstone lets you spend as many as you want. Spring the Trap is the ultimate beatdown utility.


 


Wizard


Sometimes the best way to lead is to control. You know that as well as anyone, and Wizard multiclassing helps here a ton, both with powers and with class feats. Dual-stat CHA/INT Cunning Bards can even take Resourceful Magician and have their pick of higher-level Wizard dailies.


Entry feats

Arcane Initiate (PHB): Requires only an INT 13. The Arcana training is redundant, but a per-encounter use of a Wizard at-will is pretty nifty. I'm pretty partial to Hypnotism, a Charm/Enchantment power that lets you either slide an enemy or make him attack one of his buddies in melee with a forced bonus on its attack roll (with post-MM3 figures in play this is pretty good damage). Beguiling Strands (another Charm/Enchantment), Thunderwave and Winged Horde are also worthy picks.


Learned Spellcaster (AP): This one requires an INT 13 and WIS 13. You might want to consider this one if you don't want a skill training to go to waste, since you can also train either Nature or Religion. Remember that you can take Alchemist with the Ritual Casting feature you get from this feat.


Key powers

Lv. 6 Utility


Emerald Eye (AP): This per-encounter utility is useful for anyone with an abundance of anti-Will attacks. That's probably going to be you.


Lv. 9 Daily


Symphony of the Dark Court (E:HFL): An insane Charm/Enchantment spell with a hell of a dual Leader/Controller application. It's party-friendly on its attack, it dazes guaranteed and immobilizes as well on hit, and allies in the burst get a free 4-square shift and +4 power bonus to damage rolls. Delightful.


Lv. 13 Encounter


Dark Gathering (HoS): The new darling of the Wizard's arsenal at this level, and for good reason. It's an ally-friendly AoE (which is a necessity for your MO), the heavily obscured zone it creates is ally-friendly, and, last but not least, it dazes everything on hit and can blind one unlucky foe.


Lv. 17 Encounter


Mass Charm (E:HFL): Slide all enemies in an area burst 1 up to 5 squares and make them all kill each other. Without even using an attack roll. This one's grand.


Lv. 25 Daily


Prismatic Spray (PHB): A party-friendly close burst 5 that can do a lot of damage and can also stun. About as good as it gets.


Lv. 27 Encounter


Charm of the Puppet Strings (D 381): The best yet in a long line of domination powers at this level.


Steal Time (AP): Stun the target and gain a standard action. You'll love using this to set up a nova round practically for free. And Tieflings with Royal Command of Asmodeus get to dominate with it, in which case the net action gain for your side goes through the roof. Fun times.


Lv. 29 Daily


False Reality (E:HFL): Woo, save-ends helpless and stunned when you hit an enemy with this. A perfect spell against a Solo, especially if you back it up with one of your save debuffs. Enjoy setting up coup-de-grace mayhem.


Visions of Wrath (AP): If you can catch enemies within reach of each other in a melee cluster with this, you'll have a lot of fun making them stand there and beat each other to death. They even auto-fail the save if they miss an attack. Follow this up with one of your save-debuffing powers for even more laughs. If you've got a lone survivor still dominated, send him past your melee allies for a lovely OA gauntlet. This one isn't for Solos, though.


Key class feats

Epic Tier


Arcane Mastery (PHB): Do you really love that daily attack or utility spell you nabbed from the Wizard's arsenal? Good, because you get to use it again. Have fun.


Focused Wizardry (AP): This one affects all arcane spells. The +2 to attack for targeting a lone enemy with an AoE is worth a look, particularly against Solos.


Spell Accuracy (PHB): Resourceful Magicians are more likely to pick this one up, which lets you exclude allies from your party-unfriendly Wizard spells. If you have a significant WIS modifier, go for it.


Key epic destinies

Archmage (PHB): Allows you to use a whole lot of daily arcane powers over the course of a day. The capstone even turns one of them into an encounter power. This ED alone makes Wizard MC worth it.

Songs for Peaceful Times: Bard Rituals


Bard Rituals

Lv. 1


Glib Limerick (PHB2): The effect ends when you roll initiative, so apparently this is supposed to be used in the middle of a skill challenge, and not before? That makes its usefulness rather dubious. At least it requires no skill check.


Traveler's Chant (PHB2): Get where you need to go faster. Good one. Needs no skill check.


Lv. 3


Lullaby (PHB2): This one is useful in all sorts of situations, many of which will end in your party getting the hell out of there ... or getting ready to ambush your audience. Uses an Arcana check.


Lv. 4


Call of Friendship (AP): Win a new friend for a while. Uses a Diplomacy check.


Lv. 6


Fool's Speech (PHB2): Used mainly for keeping secrets and confusing people. No skill check. Can be fun and handy at times.


Lv. 8


Anthem of Unity (AP): A logical progression from Call of Friendship, working on a whole bunch of people this time. Except if your Diplomacy check for the ritual is high enough you can even get them to take mild risks.


Song of Sustenance (PHB2): Translation: You and your party don't have to eat. No skill check required, so no Bard has an excuse to be without this one.


Lv. 9


Tune of Merriment (PHB2): Roll twice on Diplomacy checks. Good stuff, indeed. No skill check for the ritual.


Lv. 10


Aria of Revelation (PHB2): Bonuses to allies' checks for trained knowledge skills, based on your Arcana check. Comes in handy.


Chorus of Truth (PHB2): Interrogation is a common skill challenge, and the subjects love to mislead you. So the Bluff penalty from this, based on your Arcana check, is often useful.


Song of Restfulness (PHB2): If you've still got your no-cost ritual casting for the day from Bardic Training, this check-free ritual to shorten your extended rest is an excellent one to use it for.


 


It's all Instrumental: Items


Just remember that your top priority in every 5-level interval is keeping your armor, weapon and/or implement and neck item up to date. Plan it right and you'll still have plenty of room for other nice things.


Armor

Lv. 2


Screaming (AV): Comes in hide and scale, and gives a bonus to Intimidate as a property, along with a per-encounter attack debuff from range. Nice.


Veteran's (AV): Property gives you +1 to attack and all defenses on action point use. This one used to be a lot more powerful, but even now it's still pretty solid.


Lv. 3


Eladrin (PHB): Chain only. If you're a Cunning Bard, this is a good reason to spend the feat on ring mail proficiency. Increases the range of your teleports (doesn't seem to be limited to self-teleportation, either). Wayfarers, in particular, will want to look at this one.


Nightmare Ward (AV2): Psychic resistance and bonus to saves against charm, fear and psychic effects. Nice. Comes in leather and hide.


Lv. 4


Battle Harness (DA 09): Fulltime power bonus to initiative equal to enhancement is pretty big, considering it can stack with other initiative-granting items. Comes in all light armors, including hide.


Time Link (AV2): An item bonus to initiative for the chain wearers out there. That alone is worth a mention.


Lv. 5


Agile (AV): A trap ... until you close in on Lv. 30, then it becomes awesome if you have any sort of DEX modifier. At that point there are no other masterwork armors a level or two above to grab your immediate attention.


Healer's (AV2): Extra enhancemont-bonus' worth of healing on all your healing powers. Solid. Comes in hide and chain.


Tactician's Armor (AV): Probably the best reason for a Cunning Bard to spend the feat for proficiency in ring mail. An extra modifier's worth of INT on Virtue of Cunning and INT-rider powers is incredible, and in ring mail form, you get to keep your full AC benefits from INT.


Lv. 12


Feytouched (MOTP): Item bonus to initiative equal to enhancement, AND it's in the cheap 2/7 pricing bracket? AND comes in hide? Deals don't get much better than that.


Lv. 24


Soulwarding (AV): Resist two common enemy damage types (necrotic and psychic) and protection against attacks that make you lose healing surges. Nice. Comes in all heavy armors.


Weapons (melee)

Lv. 1


Bard's Songblade (D 390): The basic Songblade. If nothing else, it sure is nice to have a cheap option for such.


Lv. 2


Farbond Spellblade (AV2): A heavy blade or light blade that can be thrown and used for ranged weapon powers. Good stuff. Take Swordmage multiclassing and you'll have a triple-purpose weapon. Great for Prescients who still plan on spending time in melee, or any Bard who wants to pluck a couple of ranged weapon spells.


Harmonic Songblade (AV2): Songblade. Not really a worthwhile step above the basic Bard's Songblade.


Lv. 3


Frost (PHB): This weapon really earns its stripes in Paragon Tier, when you can use Wintertouched and Lasting Frost together to set up combat advantage whenever you hit with it.


Harsh Songblade (PHB2): Decent crits (d8 per plus) with this Songblade, and an AoE dazing daily that works with Bard thunder powers (Arcane Admixture if necessary).


Inescapable (AV): Stacks bonuses to hit with every miss until you hit the enemy. Solid.


Rhythm Blade (AV2): Extra AC and Reflex with this light blade if you dual-wield.


Venomous Songblade (D 390): Save-ends weakening daily power on this Songblade. Meh.


Lv. 4


Echoing Songblade (AV2): This Songblade's main selling point relies far too much on luck to be reliable.


Tuning Songblade (D 390): A property relying on ongoing thunder damage is just a little too situational for a Songblade this expensive.


Sunblade (AV): A heavy blade with an at-will Radiant keyword and damage option. It can also shed a lot of light to negate concealment in dark places. Your first lightsaber, and a solid option. A Divine character who sets up radiant vulnerability will encourage you to take this, for sure.


Lv. 5


Flaming (PHB): Generally a trap, and even for Tieflings who want to use Stirring Song of Baator it's not nearly as appealing as it used to be, thanks to its pointless nerf that only allows it to transform powers whose damage is untyped.


Lightning (PHB): A flavorful, and finally viable option, thanks to nice things like Oncoming Storm and (if you're in Eberron) Mark of Storm.


Lv. 8


Cunning (AV): With all the save-ends effects your daily powers inflict, this one can be quite valuable. Even after the errata that only makes it work on the first save, buying a greater chance of another round of misery is still great. Multiclass Swordmage to put down the penalty with your implement powers, too.


Lv. 9


Githyanki Silver (MOTP): Heavy blade only, and boy is this one nasty. Take the Psychic Lock feat and have fun.


Incisive Dagger (AV2): Wayfarer Bards will look at this one for the enhancement bonus' worth of extra distance on teleports.


Lv. 12


Jagged (AV): Crit deals heavy save-ends ongoing damage instead of extra damage die, and it crits on 19-20. Comes in heavy blade. Nice.


Desiccating (AV): Cumulative weakening of Fortitude (save-ends) with every hit. Not bad against Brutes.


Piercing Songblade (PHB2): Good crits for this Songblade (d10 per plus) and the daily is a no-save encounter-long debuff to AC. Solid.


Withering (AV): Cumulative debuff of AC (save-ends) with every hit. This one is more all-purpose than Desiccating.


Lv. 15


Blade of the Eldritch Knight (AV2): Attack 5 squares away with melee attacks. Nice.


Radiant (AV): At-will Radiant keyword switch, just like the Sunblade. When the switch is on, it also deals an extra item bonus to damage, which by itself makes it superior to its far more flavorful counterpart. However, if you're wearing the Iron Armbands of Power, you can stick with the Sunblade, as item bonuses don't stack.


Lv. 20


Lilting Songblade (PHB2): One of the better Songblades. Good crit damage (d10 per plus) and a very nice encounter-long daily that escalates an already solid item bonus to damage for the whole party.


Lv. 25


Brilliant Energy (AV): Like the Sunblade, a far more interesting and flavorful lightsaber than the technically superior Radiant Weapon. If you're wearing Iron Armbands of Power then the disparity disappears, and you get solid crit damage of d10s per plus and a very nice encounter power that lets you attack Reflex with an attack that would normally target AC.


Weapons (ranged)

Lv. 1


Bard's Songbow (D 390): The basic Songbow. If nothing else, it's nice to have a cheap one of those available.


Lv. 2


Howling Songbow (D 390): Songbow with some collateral damage as a property. Decent.


Wailing Songbow (D 390): Stealth penalties galore and some per-encounter ignoring of concealment. Considering it's one of the cheaper options for Songbows, this is pretty good.


Whistling Songbow (AV2): This Songbow's daily is a party buff to attack rolls for a round. It's there if you need it.


Lv. 3


Songbow of Vanishment (AV2): Songbow with a daily Eyebite effect for a round.


Venomous Songbow (D 390): Ongoing poison damage daily. Meh.


Lv. 9


Songbow of Lullabies (AV2): If you can follow up with some save-debuffs (often true at higher levels), the daily sleep power on this Songbow can be quite nice.


Lv. 13


Shrieking Songbow (AV2): If you activate this Songbow's daily power when the enemy is surrounded by your melee allies, the enemy won't be able to avoid the opportunity attacks that result, so you essentially get another beatdown power. Nice.


Lv. 15


Songbow of Summoning (AV2): The daily on this Songbow is perfect for easily getting melee allies in position against the enemy.


Wands

Lv. 3


Wand of Psychic Ravaging (AV): With all the Psychic powers your class has, including some very good at-wills, you'll be getting the damage bonus from this one a lot. You also get a per-encounter use of the Warlock's excellent Eyebite.


Lv. 4


Master's Wand of Misdirected Mark (AV2): It does improve Misdirected Mark, but not by enough to consider taking it when you otherwise wouldn't. Better to use a wand for powers you're more likely to pick in the first place, right?


Master's Wand of Vicious Mockery (AV2): Like this one. An update made this one less obscene than its original form, but make no mistake; it's still a winner. Debuffing a second enemy's attacks by -2 with your Vicious Mockery is quite good any way you slice it.


Wand of Allure (AV2): Extra range and ignore cover and concealment when using any arcane charm power. This means Vicious Mockery and a ton of encounter and daily powers in your arsenal. Nice.


Lv. 10


Wand of Aptitude (AV2): Buffs the Bard's already solid Inspire Competence utility. Very useful in skill challenges; may be even more valuable in a low-combat campaign.


Lv. 14


Cursing Wand (AV2): Unluck is a great power and all, but come on, this relies way too much on luck to be reliable. Trap.


Wand of Thunderous Anguish (AV2): Makes one of your allies inflict significant extra thunder damage on all his hits whenever you please. Works wonders with Staggering Note, especially. Arcane Admixture for the Thunder keyword on other at-wills works, too.


Orbs (Sun Elf Eladrin or via MC feat)

Lv. 3+


Orb of Inevitable Continuance (PHB): The daily lets you extend the effects of an attack power cast through the orb for another turn. Great one to bust out on one of your implement-based encounter powers ... or on Song of Discord.


Orb of Nimble Thoughts (PHB3): Enhancement's worth of item bonus to initiative is still really good.


Lv. 4+


Orb of Fickle Fate (AV): Amazing that the daily power that strongly debuffs an enemy's saves is alive and well. It also boosts an ally's saves, making this great for your Leader/Controller MO, especially at Paragon and Epic Tiers.


Lv. 6+


Orb of Impenetrable Escape (AV): The daily forces a reroll of a save against one of your powers. Quite nice in Heroic.


Orb of Mental Domination (AV): Considering how many Bard daily powers attack Will, this is probably better than the Orb of Impenetrable Escape in Heroic Tier for you, as the item's forced-save reroll daily works on all saves against your attack's effects. In Paragon and Epic, though, you'll still probably want to move on toward the Orb of Fickle Fate.


Lv. 8+


Orb of Inescapable Consequences (AV): Essentially, turn a miss with your orb into what are often the most important results of a hit once a day. That's a grand one to use on one of your dailies. 


Lv. 13+


Orb of Temporal Dissonance (D 365): For one fight a day you can give you and your whole party some silly initiatives.


Staffs (Sun Elf Eladrin or via MC feat)

Lv. 2+


Aversion Staff (PHB3): If you're taking mostly powers that inflict effects on enemies, this one is very nice to have with its +2 untyped bonuses to all NADs against those enemies you afflicted.


Defensive Staff (AV): Good one early on with its +1 item bonus to all NADs.


Lv. 3+


Staff of Sleep and Charm (AV2): If you're taking so much as a preponderance of Charm powers, accept no substitute. That is all. 


Lv. 4+


Staff of Forceful Rebuking (PHB3): Add an extra square to your attack powers' pushes and pulls, of which your class has quite a few. 


Musical Instruments (used as focus for rituals, implements for Bard and Bard PP powers)

Lv. 2


Vistani Tambourine (D 380): This +1 implement has an encounter power, and a pretty good one, too. It helps you and an ally ignore difficult terrain for a round..


Lv. 3


Fochlucan Bandore (PHB2): With your Song of Rest once per day, grant an ally a +2 power bonus to damage for the next encounter. Good one early on. Can be used as a +1 bard implement.


Lv. 5


Mac-Fuirmidh Cittern (PHB2): A +1 implement also, the daily Song of Rest benefit grants an extra 4 points to an ally or you when spending a healing surge for the next encounter. Get if you need a higher-value ritual focus, but if you don't, the Fochlucan Bandore is still the preferred instrument here.


Lv. 7


Doss Lute (PHB2): +2 implement, and the daily Song of Rest power grants an ally or you a +2 to saves. Pretty underwhelming, now.


Sitar of Restfulness (D 383): +2 implement, and with the Song of Rest you grant the whole party 9 temporary hit points' worth of cushion for the next battle. This instrument will cover for all your rituals, too, since it's past the 1,000 gp threshold. No more expensive than the Doss Lute, exact same enhancement bonus, and the benefit is much better for this stage of your career.


Lv. 9


Mesmerizing Harp (D 390): +2 implement, with an excellent daily power that stays valuable far after it ceases to be a functional implement. It debuffs the Will defense of all enemies within 5 squares of the harp by -2, and you can sustain its effect even if you put the harp down.


Lv. 12


Cli Lyre (PHB2): +3 implement, and the daily Song of Rest benefit is a good one to use before you anticipate a conversational skill challenge.


Rhythmic War Drum (D 383): Like the Cli Lyre, a +3 implement. This one is a lot more suitable for combat, though, and is amazing for that. With Song of Rest, the whole party gets a +2 power bonus to speed and can also increase or decrease forced movement by a square for the next encounter. For Cunning Bards in particular, this even helps all the various methods with which you can slide your allies.


Lv. 17


Canaith Mandolin (PHB2): The daily Song of Rest benefit, an upgraded form of the Mac-Fuirmidh one, is worth a look. +4 implement.


Lv. 18


Fey Flute (D 383): Counts as a +4 implement. The daily grants bonuses to defenses and saves against Charm, Fear and Psychic attacks, which comes in handy against certain enemies. Still fairly situational, though, and the Canaith Mandolin is cheaper and more generally useful.


Lv. 23


Anstruth Harp (PHB2): The daily Song of Rest benefit is amazing: fully heal one ally and give him a healing surge back to boot. It's also a +5 implement, too, if that matters to you.


Lv. 29


Lyre of Supplication (D 390): +6 implement with a free per-day domination power attached. If you're still playing musical instruments at this point, it's enough to make it worth your while.


Ollamh Harp (PHB2): The daily power grants 5 extra lightning damage for the entire party on every single hit in the next encounter. Fair enough. +6 implement.


Neck

Lv. 2


Amulet of Mental Resolve (AV): +2 item bonus to saves against charm, illusion and sleep. Good early on.


Amulet of Physical Resolve (AV): +2 item bonus to saves against weakening, slowing and immobilizing. Also good early.


Lv. 4


Cloak of Distortion (AV): Not really worth it in Heroic Tier. Does get a lot better after, though.


Healer's Brooch (AV): Extra hit points on all of your own healing powers. Perfect.


Lv. 8


Periapt of Recovery (AV): +2 bonus to death saves. Nice.


Lv. 14


Timeless Locket (AV2): Yet another source from which you get an item bonus to initiative equal to enhancement. The daily also gives you a standard action you can't use to attack (but you can use it to let others attack if you have such a power, like Increasing the Tempo). Very nice.


Lv. 15


Brooch of Vitalty (AV): Increase your max HPs. Simple, and awesome.


Lv. 25


Life Charm (AV): Also known as: You (almost) never die.


Arms (Bracers)

Lv. 6


Bracers of Archery (AV): Pretty much the default for Prescients, or anyone else using a bow or crossbow. Even works with implement-based ranged powers cast through a bow or crossbow.


Iron Armbands of Power (AV): An all-purpose item bonus to melee damage rolls. Pretty much the default if you're in melee.


Lv. 14


Counterstrike Guards (AV): If you got your item bonus to damage from somewhere else (such as a Radiant Weapon), this is a great item to take in place of the Iron Armbands, with the immediate reaction MBA payback from an enemy's miss going very well with the basic attack-triggered powers.


Arms (Shields)

Lv. 4


Shield of Eyes (AV): Extra AC against opportunity attacks. Good.


Feet

Lv. 2


Acrobat Boots (PHB): Minor action to stand up from being prone. Good one early.


Lv. 3


Catstep Boots (AV): Half-damage, land on your feet from a fall. Good for this tier.


Lv. 7


Boots of the Fencing Master (AV): +1 item bonus to AC and Reflex whenever you shift, and you get to shift 2 squares every encounter. Good one.


Lv. 8


Boots of Quickness (AV): Untyped bonus to your Reflex defense. There's a version of it at each tier. Awesome, especially to make Cunning Bards almost unhittable there.


Lv. 9


Boots of Eagerness (AV): Extra move action per encounter. Nice.


Lv. 13


Winged Boots (PHB): Your first item that prevents fall damage completely. Also comes with a daily flight power.


Lv. 14


Oceanstrider Boots (AV): +1 item bonus to speed and you can walk and stand on water and other non-hazardous liquid surfaces. Very nice.


Lv. 16


Eladrin Boots (PHB): One of the original teleport enhancers, and one Wayfarer Bards will want to look at. Adds 2 squares to all teleports you make (this language is vague enough so that it apparently can be applied to teleports you induce in allies as well).


Lv. 18


Dimensional Stride Boots (AV): +1 untyped bonus to Reflex, with a per-encounter teleportation power. Good.


Lv. 25


Airstriders (AV): You get to fly. Along with taking no damage from falls. Great.


Sandals of Avandra (AV): +2 item bonus to speed, and shift half your speed at-will. Awesome.


Lv. 28


Boots of Teleportation (AV): At-will teleportation. That should say it all.


Hands

Lv. 10


Strikebacks (AV): Per-encounter immediate reaction attack against an enemy who hit you, which makes for yet another golden opportunity to use your basic-attack triggered powers out of turn, should you be packing them.


Lv. 12


Gloves of the Healer (AV): A bonus on all your healing spells, including Majestic Word. Awesome.


Lv. 14


Gloves of Dimensional Repulsion (AV): Wayfarer Bards will want this one for an extra 2 squares on all teleports they grant their allies.


Head

Lv. 7


Phrenic Crown (AV): A penalty to enemies' first saves against your anti-Will attacks' effects. This one used to be a lot more powerful, but even now helping ensure at least one more round of misery is still very good.


Lv. 8


Circlet of Indomitability (AV): Untyped bonus to Will, and a version comes at each tier. Simple, and awesome.


Coif of Mindiron (AV): Per-encounter prevention of daze if Will is attacked. Gets even better in later tiers, when it also prevents stuns and eventually domination.


Lv. 9


Helm of Battle (PHB): Item bonus to initiative for you and nearby allies. Nice.


Lv. 10


Headband of Intellect (AV): +1 to attack rolls with Psychic powers. Perfect for your vocation.


Lv. 23


Eye of Awareness (PHB): +2 to Will and +5 to initiative as item bonuses. Great one here, assuming you don't already have an item bonus to initiative from something else.


Rings

Lv. 14


Eladrin Ring of Passage (KTW): Teleport enhancer for Wayfarer Bards. Increases teleports by a square (2 if you're an Eladrin).


Lv. 15


Ring of Aquatic Ability (AV): A ring slot is where you're most likely to put swim speed/underwater breathing properties.


Ring of the Dragonborn Emperor (AV): Item bonus to damage on all close attacks. Including close bursts and blasts with your weapon. Note this is not redundant with Iron Armbands of Power since that item applies only to powers designated "melee."


Lv. 17


Ring of Retreat (AV): Another teleportation enhancer, so Wayfarer Bards should pay attention. This one increases the distance of teleports by a square.


Lv. 21


Ring of Tenacious Will (AV): Uses Charisma to determine number of healing surges instead of Constitution. Non-Valorous Bards will want to look good and hard at this one.


Lv. 22


Luminary Ring (AV): Increase the range of powers that heal or give bonuses. Perfect for your role. Apparently this includes attack powers that do those things as well, not just utilities, which makes this even more amazing.


Lv. 24


Ring of Regeneration (PHB): Item bonus to healing surge value as a property, and the daily, after a milestone, gives you regeneration 10 and gives you back a healing surge. Good.


Lv. 25


Gargoyle Ring (AV): Save against petrification, even when you are petrified. Nice.


Lv. 27


Ring of the Phoenix (AV): Solid fire resistance property, and a very nice self-resurrection daily power.


Shadow Band (AV): Concealment all the time. Great fun.


Lv. 29


Ring of Free Time (AV2): Resist 5 all constantly is awesome enough. Then there's the one extra minor action per encounter from this ring ... which turns into an extra minor action every single round after the first milestone. Since Bards use a lot of minor actions, including several sustain powers, this is huge. Particularly for Bards with sustain-minor powers, this could even be essential.


Waist

Lv. 2


Belt of Vigor (PHB): Item bonus to healing surge value. Solid start.


Lv. 7


Belt of Sacrifice (PHB): Item bonus to nearby allies' healing surge value. Great property. Ignore the daily.


Lv. 8


Belt of Vim (AV): Untyped Fortitude bonus. Comes in a version at each tier. Just a great all-purpose benefit.


Lv. 21


Baldric of Valor (AV): Bonuses to attack, saves and defenses for action point usage. Nice.


Lv. 23


Belt of Vitality (AV): +2 untyped bonus to Fortitude, and once per day get back up when you make a death save. Very nice.


Wonderous Items

Lv. 9


Backlash Tattoo (AV2): Immediate reaction MBA when you get bloodied the first time every fight can be a good thing considering Leaders tend to be high-priority targets. Plus it's yet another opportunity to use any basic attack-triggered powers you have out of turn.



Dragonshard Augments (Eberron)

Lv. 2/12/22


Eberron Shard of Lightning (EPG): The shard of choice for those who use Lightning Weapons.


Siberys Shard of Merciless Cold (EPG): Lasting Frost users go straight for this one.


Lv. 3/13/23


Siberys Shard of Radiance (EPG): Untyped bonus to Radiant damage rolls. The choice of the Radiant Weapon wielder.

Advanced Composition: Combos


I. Scales and Chords: Basic Combos


These are the basic tricks the Bard can pull, many of which have been hinted at through this guide. Here you get to see them come together. Many of these are done at-will or per-encounter. Some of these are just general things he/she can do to help the party with his/her own devices, while others may be standard combos for assisting a certain type of ally. Many of these combos can serve as the building blocks for greater works (i.e. the advanced combos to come later).


Heroic and Paragon Tier


Cunning Rearrangement

Piece 1: Virtue of Cunning (Bard feature, PHB2)
Piece 2: Advantage of Cunning (Bard heroic feat, PHB2)
Piece 3: Improved Cunning (Bard paragon feat, PHB2)


Ideal allies:
1) One Defender with Agile Opportunist (any)
2) One melee Striker or second Defender with Agile Opportunist (any)


Sequence:
If enemy attacks and misses either melee combatant - Virtue of Cunning + Advantage of Cunning


Next turn: Repeat.


Description: This is how a Cunning Bard can completely turn the tables on enemy melee units engaged with your melee allies.


Here are some basic flank setups he can pull off with the Virtue/Advantage combo, even in Heroic Tier before he gets Improved Cunning (0=Unoccupied Squares, E=Enemy, A=Ally 1, B=Ally 2):


000000        000000      00B000
00B000 into 00B000 or 00E000 (the first if E attacks A, second if E attacks B)
00AE00        00E000      00A000
000000        00A000      000000


000000        000000
0B0000 into 0B0000 (E attacks A)
00AE00        00E000
000000        000A00


In Paragon Tier, with Improved Cunning the options become even more extensive, and you also get more opportunities to trigger Agile Opportunist from the ally you slide. Such as:


000000        000000      00B000
00B000 into 000000 or 00E000 (E attacks B)
00AE00        00AEB0     00A000
000000        000000      000000


In this example, B can get his Agile Opportunist attack when you slide him one square to the right, then slide him diagonally another square either down-right (setting up the flank immediately) or, alternatively, up-left and sliding E up-left where B used to be, into a flank there.


Improved Cunning + Advantage of Cunning can get really fun against Large enemies:


0000000        0000000
00BEE00 into 00B0000 (4 E's attacks A; 4 E's attacking B is the mirror going up)
00AEE00        00EE000
0000000        00EE000
0000000        00A0000


Remember that Advantage of Cunning's language makes the slide work as long as the enemy's destination includes one square where the ally used  to be, and there is no limit to the amount of squares you can slide the  enemy. Here, after the first square A slides, he gets his AO (he's still adjacent to the 4 E's at that point), then he slides the second square and the Large enemy gets shoved into the flank for his efforts.


Another one for kicks:


0000000        0000000
000EE00 into 0000000 (4 E's attacks A)
0BAEE00        0BEE000
0000000        00EEA00
0000000        0000000


You slide A down-right, then right (he gets his AO at any point here), then slide the 4 E's into the flank.


I could come up with a lot more, but hopefully after these first few diagrams you can see just how potent this combo can get in redrawing the battle lines. This is the reason both Advantage of Cunning and Improved Cunning are rated mandatory.



A Very Vicious Mockery

Piece 1: Vicious Mockery (Bard at-will, PHB2)
Piece 2: Beguiling Enchantment (General heroic feat, PHB3)
Piece 3: Psychic Lock (General paragon feat, PHB)
Piece 4 (optional): Master's Wand of Vicious Mockery (Implement  property, wand, AV2)


Ideal allies:
1) One Defender (any works, but even better if he/she inflicts additional to-hit penalties on or in addition to his marks, i.e. Charisma-based Paladin with Enfeebling Strike)
2) Any other ally who inflicts hit penalties


Sequence:
Bard standard action - Vicious Mockery
Defender standard action - Attack
Defender miscellaneous actions (minor, free, none) - Mark


Next turn: Repeat.


Description: This combo is meant to stack penalties on top of what Vicious Mockery can already do. Extra self-defense comes in the form of Beguiling Enchantment, taking advantage of the power's Charm keyword to inflict additional penalties when the enemy attacks you. In Paragon Tier, this power inflicts an additional -2 on the enemy's first attack against anybody thanks to Psychic Lock and the Psychic keyword.


Combined with a Chaladin's basic mark and Enfeebling Strike, you have a simple at-will party combo that can inflict -6 to hit the Chaladin, -8 to hit all your other allies, and -10 to hit you. A Cunning Bard can really take advantage of this, as we'll see in the advanced combos.



No Shifting Allowed

Piece 1: White Lotus Hindrance (Arcane heroic feat, D 374)
Piece 2: White Lotus Master Hindrance (Arcane paragon feat, D 374)


Ideal allies:
1) One Defender (any, but especially a Fighter with Combat Superiority)
2) A melee Striker or second Defender


Sequence:
Standard action - Any Bard at-will when your melee allies are flanking an enemy or enemies.


Next turn: Repeat.


Description: When you use Master Hindrance to create difficult terrain around your melee allies when they're flanking someone, the enemy literally has nowhere to shift, as shown here:


E = enemy, A = ally, 0 = unaffected squares, X = difficult terrain.


0000XXX0
0XXEEAX0
0XAEEXX0
0XXX0000
00000000


Here, the enemy is large (4 E's), but still can't shift anywhere. Anywhere he would try to shift would have an X in it, a square of difficult terrain.



Shock, Stagger and Skewer

Piece 1: Staggering Note (Bard at-will D 383)
Piece 2: Arcane Admixture (Lightning) (Arcane paragon feat, AP)
Piece 3: Oncoming Storm (General heroic feat, PHB2)
Piece 4: Wand of Thunderous Anguish (Implement property, wand, AV2)
Piece 5: White Lotus Riposte (Arcane heroic feat, D 374)
Piece 6: White Lotus Master Riposte (Arcane paragon feat, D 374)
Piece 7 (optional): Mark of Storm (Dragonmark feat, EPG)
Piece 8 (optional): Echoes of Thunder (General paragon feat, PHB2)


Ideal allies:
1) At least one melee ally with a strong melee basic attack


Sequence:
Standard action - Staggering Note, push enemy next to melee ally.
Move action - If necessary, move into a spot relative to your ally where you can push your enemy again toward your ally if the enemy decides to still attack you. And you want to be within three squares of your ally (you'll see why).
Immediate action - If enemy attacks you, repeat Staggering Note, push enemy next to melee ally again.


Next turn: Repeat.


Description: This is the path toward optimizing the effects of Staggering Note. Arcane Admixture the Lightning keyword onto it (remember even post-errata that feat still stacks keywords) and you'll make it play nice with the attack bonus you get from Oncoming Storm. Wand of Thunderous Anguish makes your melee ally of choice inflict extra Thunder damage on all his following attacks, including the attack Staggering Note grants. And the reason you want to move yourself into a position like so after your standard action:


0000A00
000E000 (A=ally, B=bard, E=enemy)
0000000
0000000
000B000


is to (a) possibly entice the enemy to attack you so it triggers your Master Riposte, and (b) if he does trigger your Staggering Note repeat, you're in a position to push the enemy back two squares toward your ally, where he can make yet another melee basic attack. This can be a way to really rack up the damage ... that or make the enemy deathly scared to attack you back. (Alternatively, you could find a second melee ally to attain this position with if it would be easier.)


If you took Mark of Storm, you can be an extra square away thanks to the slide you get from that power.



 


II. Etudes: Advanced Combos


Here are the more advanced combos, some of which use the basics above as building blocks.


Heroic and Paragon Tier


Mocking Rearrangement

Piece 1: Cunning Rearrangement (Basic combo)
Piece 2: A Very Vicious Mockery (Basic combo)


Ideal allies:
1) One Defender, preferably one who optimizes to-hit penalties, with Agile Opportunist.
2) Second Defender or melee Striker with Agile Opportunist.


Sequence:
Bard standard action - Vicious Mockery
Defender action - Attack
Defender miscellaneous actions (minor, free, none) - Mark
If enemy misses and attacks either melee combatant - Cunning Rearrangement


Next turn: Repeat


Description: This combines an optimized Vicious Mockery with the combo of Advantage of Cunning and Improved Cunning. Pretty simple, but with the penalties your Vicious Mockery inflicts, combined with any penalties from your Defender (Enfeebling Strike on a Paladin is really nice here) you're looking at the enemy missing very often, and thus triggering your Virtue of Cunning to turn the tables ... or better still, the enemy being scared to attack at all lest he get shoved into an even tighter situation.


Directing the Symphony: Tactics



After some analysis of actual gameplay, here are things Bards must keep in mind at the table:


 


I. Know how you direct.


Cunning: You are pretty much a Controller (Leader) through and through and should play like one. Generally, you'll want to hover a few squares away from the thick of a melee, just close enough to influence the fight with your Virtue of Cunning and your ranged implement powers. Play off your melee units and adjust your positioning round after round accordingly. If the enemy group has some annoying Artillery or Skirmishers that move on the perimeter, you're the best equipped to deal with it, using your ranged positioning powers to get your melee allies to trap them.


Valorous: You are mostly a Soldier (Leader), still with a hint of Controller. With your high Constitution and chain (or better) you'll want to be in the thick of the fight, backed up by defenders and melee strikers, where you can easily grant THPs to your allies with your Virtue of Valor, buff their attacks, and shuffle them around with your movement powers.


Prescient: You are mostly an Artillery (Leader) unit. Much like the Cunning Bard, you'll want to hover a few squares away from the heaviest area of the battle, where you can trigger your Virtue of Prescience if you need to. Most of your attacks are single-target buffs, so you tend to influence the direction of the combat most visibly.


 


II. Take initiative.


This is especially important if your Bard is oriented toward movement enabling. You should've taken Improved Initiative (and later Superior Initiative) and any items and other feats that boost your initiative. If you've done this, you should consistently beat enemies to the punch, which will also mean that your high-initiative allies won't mind delaying their turns until right after yours.


When you get the jump on your enemies with a higher initiative count, immediately use your movement enabling encounter powers to get your allies in position to unleash hell.


Another important part of taking initiative is when to delay your own turn. This is important if you have save-ends daily powers that boost your allies' attacks, such as Satire of Prowess. In such a case, having a high initiative gives you the freedom to delay your turn until right after your target enemy's turn, which will allow your allies to all take advantage of your ensuing daily power's benefits for at least one whole round. This is especially vital against an Elite or Solo, which is more likely to (a) be the target of such a power, and (b) save against a second round of such a power.


 


III. Know your numbers, and spread the word.


Few things are more frustrating than sitting at the table with a Leader player who can't remember his bonuses, or what his powers do, or how they're supposed to help you. If you granted an ally a bonus, remind them of it; in fact, remind them every turn the bonus is in effect.


 


IV. Be a team player.


Meaning, always be ready to help out in any situation, and play accordingly. If an ally needs healing, heal them. If you already see your allies advancing toward one enemy, throw one of your party starters in that enemy's direction to make your allies' job easier.

res 12

res final

How annoying was that? lol

Looking forward to the handbook.  Too bad spoiler blocks don't work anymore, so it'll have to take up a ton of space.

Looking forward to the new guide. 

Really looking forward to the new guide as I have recently started playing a half elf bard.


One interesting multiclass option/half elf dilettante combo that I noticed is that if you happen to pick up the shaman multiclass option, you can also pick up the new power Spirit of the Tempest from the Primal Power (spirit of the tempest grants a saving throw to a nearby ally of the spirit companion or the shaman, regardless of hit or miss)


I've noticed that powers that grant saving throws are a bit of rarity in bard powers and into paragon, some of those ongoing effects are worse than straight damage - this fixes that to a certain extent.

Wisdom recommendation should be 8-13. Really there are some seriously good wisdom based multiclass options


16, 16, 12, 12, 10, 8: Charisma and your relevant secondary stat get equal, intensive focus. Two other stats get marginal play. The best array if you place a premium on your Virtue benefit and the riders on your powers.

I think it will typically better to have 16, 16, 13, 11, 10, 8. The odd stats let you qualify for certain feats and multi-class feats easier. Depends a little bit on where you're getting the racial bonus.

18, 12, 12, 12, 10, 8: Variant of above, if you want an appreciable quaternary stat while still going for maximum attack bonus.

I don't even think this array is worth mentioning. This time the 18, 14, 11, 10, 10, 8 might be worth recommending, but only for those who don't get a primary boost to charisma (and even then 18, 13, 13 or 17, 14, 14 might be better depending on goals).

For races, you have none that are black. And I think some of the ones with purple actually deserve a black.


Eladrin with the ability to teleport, and education, a good early damage boost with eladrin soldier with a song blade longsword, and easy access to dual implement and a number of dex based multiclasses can do quite well. Add a wizard multiclass and an appropriate master's wand in the offhand for a bit of extra control if you don't have a controller. I think it certainly deserves a black.


Elf make almost blue precient bards. For the other builds, I'd agree with the purple.


I would also consider bumping up Genasi and Goliaths a knotch. There are some nice elemental tricks that can be done with the Genasi. And the survivability of a Goliath Bard in the front lines can be pretty impressive with easy access to scale (even plate is within reach). Add Warchanter, Improved Valor, and maybe unyielding Stone, and you can fight side by side with the defernder, even pick up Warden multiclass for some marking ability. I'd mark both Genasi and Goliaths as Black. Goliath should be at least a purple as I think they have better options than the currently purple dwarf.

I would like to suggest Magic Weapon as a good pick for a Half-Elf's Dilettante pick.  While it doesn't give near as good an attack bonus as Furious Smash, it can possibly buff more than one ally, and its damage and attack bonus last for every attack your ally might make, so it works out better when applied to multi-attacking allies.  I don't think its as good as Furious Smash, but its worth a mention if the Bard is in a party with a bunch of melees with multi-attacking powers.  Doesn't work well for Cunning Bards, though.

For multiclassing:


Cunning bards could take Wizard's Fury for extra damage each round, and it's salvable.  They can multiclass artificer for the Potent Restorables feat.


Valorous bards can multiclass into shaman for the Protective Roots evocation, giving her friends DR for the entire encounter.  It's also salvable. 

Well there's the dilettante resource thread here: community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/758...


 


The skyblues are:


Righteous BrandTwin StrikePressing StrikeEldritch StrikeSwordburstSacred FlameAstral SealEyebite

But there may be more that are skyblue to bards specifically, and I'd actually ditch pressing strike from the list for bards(typically it's for polearm builds, and eldritch is better for bard even then, being an arcane basic attack and sliding instead of pushing), or thundering armor, that can be used from your or any ally within 10s square for polearm stuff. ;)

I took Eldritch Strike on my bard, very handy having a Melee basic that is actually pretty good, have MC Artificer for potent restorables and a free heal/temp daily that doesn't suck up a surge from the party in any way.  Artificer's heal may not be as good as the multiclass cleric or warlord etc but the fact that it's surgeless is pretty nice.


I made my Bard Half Elf for the half elf emmisary racial PP and hte last game was kind of funny when the level 12 warlock in my group benefiting from my bonus was at 27 diplomacy.. Granting +6 to all charisma based skills also means that someone really good at intimidate in the party has a good shot at intimidating people into giving up when bloodied since the +10 to will defense is not as bad when you are +6 yourself.  I really do like my bard, probably my second favorite of my paragon characters.

Blah blah blah

The new eagle shaman at will, "Claws of the Eagle" may be a worthy Half Elf Diletante power, especially for those who aren't planning on taking combat virtuoso, like if they aren't multiclassing much.  It grants a free attack with much more flexibility then commander's strike (within 3 spaces, or adjacent to spirit companion if you mc shaman.  Even without a spirit companion it's still better than commander strike unless you have high int modifier) and it grants CA to the whole party for a turn, a not insignificant bonus.  I like that it grants a basic attack without typing it ranged or melee.  And we know the benefits of attack granting.  Letting people capitolize aain on bonuses you or other gave them, letting fighters get in another mark or keeping your rogue from missing out on it's sneak attack bonus...  If War Chanter, Past level 11, it's probably way better to use with an action point then many of your attacks because allies get that nifty bonus to attack and damage when you spend an action point.  Why not let them use it. 

I am very excited about this guide Litigation.  I usually play high DPR strikers.  About a month ago, I rolled a Gnome Cunning Bard "chessmaster" just for kicks and I love him.  I cant wait to see what all you and others here have to say about bards!

Nice to see the updates coming.  Thanks again Litigation!

The new eagle shaman at will, "Claws of the Eagle" may be a worthy Half Elf Diletante power, especially for those who aren't planning on taking combat virtuoso, like if they aren't multiclassing much.  It grants a free attack with much more flexibility then commander's strike (within 3 spaces, or adjacent to spirit companion if you mc shaman.  Even without a spirit companion it's still better than commander strike unless you have high int modifier) 



Err... no on the bolded part there. It has range: melee spirit 1. It requires the spirit companion to function, unless you use a totemic warclub(and then you have to be adjacent to the target), and totemic warclub requires being shaman to use it as an implement. There's no arcane implement proficiency: mace.

The only new at-will in PrP worth considering is fire hawk, as a prescient bard.

Notes(Excellent guide as always Litigation):
Word of Friendship should be sky blue - in effect, you don't need training in Diplomacy and get a free +1 for doing so. Combine with Jack of all Trades.


Dexterity - there are some interesting new feats for Rogues, including one that adds +Cha to Athletics/Acrobatics.


Eladrin - Feyborn Charm + Cunning Bard isn't Purple. It might not be better than Gnome, but...in combo with Resourceful Magician and the Charm spells available to Wizards in the new Dragon article, it is pretty good in a narrow way. And that route still lets you do Feycharger tricks.


Star of Corellon - I think this is only Dark Blue. It used to be amazing, but that was really when there were no other options. If you find it, that's amazing, but you're usually going to be stuck at a -1 to everyone else if you're buying it. Arcane Implement Proficiency, given that it means you can swat people or do implement tricks is much better. Would you spend a feat for a +1 to hit? I would...not to mention, it also opens up some of the really nice Holy Symbols from AV2 which have properties not related to attacks. Symbol of Daring for instance.


Inspiring Refrain - +1 to hit for all attacks against all opponents. It isn't great, but I think it is better than purple because all you need is a character who has good options to attack multiple opponents in your party.


Fast Friends - what about this one isn't Red? There are some interesting 'don't attack the defender who marked you' options, but wow is that situational for a situational power.


Unluck - while I think it is the best of the 7th level powers, in practice, I've found it is always the last power I'm using out of my encounters. Necrotic and range of 5 really make it Dark Blue.


Mantle of Unity is really nice. I'd call it Sky Blue. Once the Bard goes in round 1, they basically always throw this up and cause a bunch of misses as a result. This is especially true if you're in a party with wildly varying defenses. Swordmage or Paladin = wow...


Wail of Anguish. This one is calling out for something better than Sky Blue. I think it would be sky blue if it took a standard action, not a minor. In practice, absolutely amazing ability to dish out tons of damage. Works with Resplendent Gloves and the Dragonshard that works with weapon implements. Which is to say, it warps combats.


 


 

Paragon:
Insult of Passivity. Seems like it ought to be sky blue, but there's nothing preventing the enemy from attacking the creature with a reasonably minor attack and wiping out the daze. Say with a burst or blast.


Harmony of the Two. I don't think this one is Red. Remember, it works with Ranged Basic Attacks too...


 

Shield Proficiency (Light) (PHB): Melee Bards who have STR 13 might as well consider getting proficiency here for the extra +1 to AC and Reflex.

Bards already are automatically proficient with light shields.

My bad.


Rhyme of Fire (AP): This one should never see the light of day against the other, better options here. Simply outclassed.


Iceshard Shot (AP): Hit or miss, you inflict ongoing cold damage, which you or an ally can prolong forever as long as you hit the enemy to automatically make him fail the save. Just sexy.




Excellent work on the guide Litigation. 


Curious about your Red Rating for Rhyme of Fire and Sky Blue for Iceshard Shot.  I'm a big fan of both of these. 


At Level 5; hit or miss; you can add ability modifier damage to all hits made by your entire party against a boss for the entire encounter.  There is no save against this. 


At Level 15; Ice Shard shot is almost identical; hit or miss; except more damage and a very difficult save. 


Get both of these going on a boss for the entire encounter to really up your parties damage output. Have someone else add fire or ice vulnerability for the whole encounter for even more fun. 


Bards don't really have many full encounter ways to up the entire parties damage and these work great for that. 


At Level 5; hit or miss; you can add ability modifier damage to all hits made by your entire party against a boss for the entire encounter.  There is no save against this. 


At Level 15; Ice Shard shot is almost identical; hit or miss; except more damage and a very difficult save. 


 

Not identical at all. Rhyme of Fire's damage boost only affects hits. Iceshard Shot's damage is automatic, being ongoing damage and all. Iceshard Shot's damage boost is a lot more substantial for that reason. Fire resistance is also a lot more common than cold.


And Rhyme of Fire just isn't as good as the other options at Lv. 5 (domination, forced movement, recharge power denial, AoEs, etc.)


Stirring Shout (PHB2): Hit or miss the target, free CHA-mod healing for allies who attack it for the rest of the encounter. Perfect to lay down on that Elite or Solo your party has been saving for last.





Agree with your point that there are some very good competing options for Level 5 dailies such as hit or miss forced move.  Also agree that at higher levels; fire resistance is more common. 

But Ryme of Fire has the same attributes that many including yourself love on Stirring Shout.  It is a pinata power.  It's setup is automatic (hit or miss on the setup) and lasts the entire boss encounter.  And it dishes out charisma modifier damage every time an ally hits it.  Just as Stirring Shout dishes out charisma modifier hit points to any ally that hits it for the duration. This is very effective for long boss encounters.  Not made for short encounters. 


And Rhyme of Fire just isn't as good as the other options at Lv. 5 (domination, forced movement, recharge power denial, AoEs, etc.)




That shouldn't affect its rating, though. Say I have a level 1 at-will that stuns (save ends). That's definitely sky blue. If another at-will comes out that stuns (save ends) and does one extra point of damage, that's also sky blue, but it doesn't stop the other at-will from being sky blue. It's good to note that the previous at-will is strictly worse, but it's still not bad. Powers' ratings should be in accordance with their level, not in accordance with the other options that the class has at that level.

Alright, I changed it to black.

Resourceful Magician should be Ice-Blue for Cunning Bards, especially Int-based races who went 16/16 in Int/Cha. The 16th level ability allows you to pick from any of your arcane classes when you can learn a new bard power. Such as when you retrain a power, such as an at-will...


This works in Character Builder for reference - if you retrain a Bard at-will, it offers up all the at-wills from your arcane multiclasses to choose from.


Basically, a Resourceful Magician Bard can morph into a nearly full-blown Wizard who can cherry-pick the best possible powers from Wizard and Bard across their entire power list(and that's assuming they don't get Warlock, Artificer, Swordmage and/or Sorcerer to choose from as well). That's insanely good.

The resourceful magician thing is kind of funky, and I'm not sure all options with retraining in the character builder are completely valid. Have you noticed that if you have versatile master and retrain your arcane initiate at-will-as-encounter power, the new choice becomes a true at-will in the character builder?


Just for fun I made a half-elf cunning bard/MC wizard/MC warlock/resourceful magician, I ended up with 5 at-will powers, none of them bard at-wills(dilletante: swordburst, arcane initiate: thunderwave, resourceful magician: eldritch blast, retrained bard at-will: scorching burst, stand-in for winged horde, retrained bard at-will: eldritch strike).


Actually if you started a campaign at epic level and used a resourceful magician bard, you wouldn't even need charisma... you could have only int-based powers(with exception of majestic word's charisma bonus on heals). Use human for a third at-will from any of your arcane MC classes...(winged horde, swordburst and magic weapon anyone?) For pure sillieness, grab an epic destiny that lets you use twinned spell at-will... actually, demi-god, twinned spell and steal time = always stun all enemies every round and attack with a power of your choice.

Yeah, I'm gonna take some of the things Character Builder allows with a grain of salt. That said, I did add a sky-blue note about dual-stat Cunning Bards and Wizard/Swordmage spells under the entry for that PP.

The wording I'm using should be clear cut RAW - you're learning a new bard power by retraining and therefore get to take your pick of any of your other arcane multiclasses instead as a 16+ level Resourceful Magician.


As this is unusually extreme cheese, I'm just pointing out that the Character Builder is backing me up on this. And this also has all kinds of implications for Eladrin charge builds, who can pick up Eldritch Strike(which works with Focused Expertise and triggers all kinds of nonsense as an arcane power) as opposed to Melee Training(which doesn't as it isn't a power)

I think Jack of All Trades bears special mention in the feat section since with it and the bard's skill versatility, bards are only +2 shy of being effectively "trained" in all untrained skills.


Enjoying all the updates though.  I find myself constantly refreshing trying to see what you've come up with next!


Great Work!