A Build Concept: The Iron Curtain Fighter

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The Iron Curtain
- a Fighter concept -

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Don't Mess with Her !



Idea:
A good Fighter wants to accomplish three things - (1) keep many enemies in check, id est marked (2) have the power to withstand the retaliation and (3) be able to still do significant damange to both contribute as well as make ignoring his mark dangerous enough.
Basis: A Tempest Fighter can accomplish (1) and (3) usually well enough, but suffers significantly in regard of (2).
Solution: The Iron Body Ki Focus solves (2) and let's us also perform some other nice shenanigans.
Expansion: Develop the damage part (3) into a full nova to remove one enemy early from the fight and thus lower the enemy pressure.


Pros:
-- starts working at very low levels (only one level 5 magic item and one feat required)
-- leaves quite some room for indiviual implementation
-- unifies the best aspects of the Fighter into one build
Cons:
-- locks the multiclass slot (at least to a certain extend)
-- not fully compatible with certain builds that depend on a particular weapon (like polearms or frostcheese)


How It Works

The Iron Body Ki Focus provides a substantial Resist All against any attacks of targets that were hit since the last turn. That matches very well with the aforementioned goals of the Fighter to attack (and hopefully hit) as many targets as possible to keep them marked, which we accomplish by going down the two weapon Tempest Technique path. Thus the Iron Body Ki Focus turns the one weakness of the Tempest Fighter into an advantage and also opens up some nice extra options to use.
That is also how I came to name the concept 'Iron Curtain' - drown the enemies in an onslaught of small but vicious attacks while staying unharmed yourself by a mix of agility, quick parries and hardiness from your Ki Focus.


Implementation


Race
Any race suitable for a Fighter with either a Str or a Dex bonus works well enough, even unusual choices like Halflings.

Class
As already mentioned, a Fighter with Tempest Technique is the core of the build. To be able to use Ki Foci, either MC Assassin or MC Monk are required. Using a Hybrid is still an option for more flexibility.
Combat Surperiority together with Agile Surperiority is very useful for keeping the needed to-hit chance high, but can be traded for Combat Agility for enhanced mobility.

Attributes
Strength is a primary and Dex an important secondary, although there is room for anything between a modicum and a full investment into Dex. Wis is a useful tertiary, but outside certain specific flavour starting with Wis 13 is enough (it will open Martial Resolve, among others, at Epic without further investments). Putting spare points in Con never hurts, while Cha and Int are not relevant to this build.

Feats
MC Assassin or MC Monk is required.
MC Assassin will give you either Stealth or Acrobatics, which is very solid. The decision between a bit of free extra damage (and possible benefit for power swaps) or an encounter teleport to circumvent immobilises et al is not relevant to the further build.
MC Monk provides a free skill pick from the very good Monk class list and a one time use of Flurry of Blows. Centered Flurry provides good control, while Stone Fist Flurry will usually be significantly ahead in raw damage, but both are fine for this build and both are a good way to clear Minions.

Weapons
Two Short Swords are the basis (or Katars once you get an improved crit chance), though Daggers (for RBAs or say Hybrid Sorcerer shenangians), Drow Longknives (for Heavy Blade Opportunity etc) and the Whip (for Flail / reach tricks) are also options with some investment.
You cannot use any enchanments for attacking, as that is taken up by the Ki Focus - but that can actually be used as an advantage, as it saves money usually needed for two weapons and opens up nice tricks with other enchantments (see optimisation below).

Armor
Depending on the Dex Score either Hide or Chainmail is the armor of choice, as it provides a nice damage boost, and especially Chainmail can compensate for the lacking Will defense. The armor point missing towards Scale will be compensated by this build and is further alleviated by the resistance provided by the Iron Body Ki Focus, but it is still an option for those who want to give up damage for defense.
Consider Dwarven Armor if you wear heavy, a Battle Harness or Displacer Armor if you wear Hide, or Trollskin in any case. Armor of Resistance or Deathcut Armor or the like help to deal with elemental threats.

Other Items
Nothing specific is required.
But as usual you should pick up Iron Armbands of Power, and if not otherwise slotted Strikebacks or Gauntlets of Blood as Gloves.
Pick up something to help you with your saves, like Amulett of Mental / Physical Resolve, Periapt of Cascading Health, or Boots of Free Movement - although some simple Acrobat Boots or the great Boots of Fencing Master help with mobilty as well.
Don't forget a tattoo, which usually should be Backslash.
More specific needs can be auras and area effects countermeasures as a Demonskin Tatoo or a Cloak of Survival can provide, or a Cloak of Displacement against ranged attacks.

Powers
The cornerstone of the build is Dual Strike, which hands out a double mark, decent damage and on hit resistance against two enemies. Footwork Lure and Brash Strike are good secondary options to be used against single enemies.
Suggested encounter powers include about every multiattack power possible, for example Funneling Flurry, Rain of Blows (or Sweeping Blow with Heavy Blades), Come and Get It, Opportunist's Rend or Twofold Torment in Heroic Tier.
Daily Powers should compensate for the only avarage performance against strong single enemies, using picks like Villian's Menace, Bedeviling Assault or Dervish's Challenge, and on the other hand make use of the many nice Stance powers of the Fighter, especially such that grant additional attacks as Dancing Defense.
The Utility choices are open and should fill gaps in the individual party and the particular need of the campaign, with any kind of regeneration (as long as it's not heavily dependant on Con) being extremely valuable, but caution is advised against those that are Stances (they can conflict with the Daily attack Stances) and those that require immediate actions (as they block the use of Combat Challenge to punish a marked target that turn).

Note: The Character Builder often performs errornous calculations, missing boni from Ki Foci and Tempest Technique, so double check all math.


Performance Evaluation


Example Numbers
Resistance Iron Body Ki Focus at level 5 vs Monster Damage (MM3 style) at L5: 3 vs 2d6+6 = 3 vs 13 = 23%
- the same at L18: 6 vs 3d8+13 = 6 vs 26.5 = 22.5%
- the same at L30: 8 vs 4d8+20 = 8 vs 38 = 21%

RIBKF at L5 vs Monster Damage at L5 (MM3 style, limited expression): 3 vs 19.5 = 15.5%
- the same at L18: 6 vs 39 = 15.5%
- the same at L30: 8 vs 57 = 14%

RIBKF at level 5 vs Toughness at level 5: 3 vs 5 = 60%
- the same at L18: 6 vs 10 = 60%
- the same at L30: 8 vs 15 = 53%

RIBKF at L30 vs Bahamut's (level 36 solo) Bite attack: 8 vs 3d12+10 = 8 vs 29.5 = 27%
RIBKF at L30 vs Bahamut's Disintegration Breath: 8 vs 4d12+10 & 15 ong & 10 ong (minimum) = 8 vs 61 (min) = 39% (min)

Summary: The resistance stays solid and relatively constant throughout the levels. It will lower the incoming damage by over 20% for normal attacks and around 15% for strong single hits, and the performance becomes even better against the common methods of multi-attacks and ongoing damage. The often praised feat Toughness will be outperformed no later than the 2rd or 3rd resisted hit, effectiveness increasing with combat length.


Optimisation Options


Weapon Enhancmenets
While you cannot use any enhancement that is used on attacks, you can use passive and certain triggered enhancements.
A definate pick for one weapon should be a Rhythm Blade, which increases the shield bonus from Two Weapon Defense by one point. Strong second picks include Strongheart Weapons (against being weakened), a Master's Blade for two Stances at the same time, Chainreach Weapons for a nice extra attack with a bonus and Vengeful Weapons for a nice accuary and damage boost. There are others, as the Luckblade, that are in the grey area wether they work in conjucntion with a Ki Focus or not.
All former examples are already available as level 5 item or lower, and can thus easily be added to your armament by the end of Herioc.

Light Blades
You want to consider getting Dex high enough so that you have 21 by Epic to pick up Light Blade Mastery.
Midnight Blade Style is an ideal for this build, as it increases accuracy the signature attack Dual Strike significantly. The Greater Style feat offers some advantages for mobility oriented builds, too. Nimble Blade is nice to boost your accuracy further while having CA. At Paragon you should consider Deft Blade for accuracy on your MBAs and Plunging Blade can increase the lethality of your OAs even further.

Heavy Blades
This makes sense if you don't want to invest too much into Dex and plan on getting Heavy Blade Opportunity (together with Blade Opportunist, in case you choose Combat Agility as class feature), but will need to invest one extra feat to get proficiency with the Drow Longknife and at least Dex 17 by Epic for Weapon Mastery.

Whips
You give up some damage and accuracy optimisation potential here, but you gain big time on Control, and the RP potential is huge as well... Employing Whips for reach is quite useful itself, but the real value comes from sliding with Lashing Flail and one round threatening reach per encounter from Whip Expert (free of prerequesites since DSCS).

Versatility
Due its reliance on the Ki Focus to provide the basic enhancement bonus this build is in general more open to either mixing or switching weapons - be it for using advantages of different types, as in Nimble Blade while also having Heavy Blade Opportunity, or to switch either regularly to reap weapon related benefit from Fighter powers or using the Weapon Master powers. In these cases Weapon Master and Quick Draw are relevant feats to keep up the pace by Paragon.
Another way is to make use of the Martial Swap feats to be able adapt your power selection as needed. At last Skill Power lets you grab one of the very good Skill Powers, which should suit any build.

Your own Defense
You definately should pick up Improved Defenses, not only because it's a good feat but also because NAD attacks are often combined with debuffs, that are not stopped by the Iron Body Ki Focus. If you have the feats to spare Epic Will is a solid pick. Definately consider Martial Resolve or improved Will and anything that helps with saving throws, as all you damage resistance will help nothing against being restrained, dominated or stunned.
Toughness and Durable are good as usual, but might not be necessary depending on your group.
Hide is a very nice armor, but sadly requires too much Con for specialisation, Chainmail is good but takes an extra feat (Chainmail Agility) if you want to get rid of the speed penalty, and Scale, while good overall, negates your damage bonus. Proficiency with a Parrying Dagger also provides 1 AC and gives up much less damage.
At last look out for any regeneration you can get from items (permanent or consumable), through powers from any other sources or allies, as it makes damaging you significantly at all very hard and also saves you some surges.

Defending your Party
Mark of Warding and Daunting Challenge improve your mark.
Vexing Flanker can be useful to help other party members get CA. Any initiative boost like Improved Initiative or Danger Sense pairs well with your good Dex to go early in combat and lock down foes before they can cause harm.
Mobile Challenge is a very nice tool for repositioning between turns. Tactical Surperiority stops enemies from moving away from you by doing a move-charge combo. Allied Opportunity and Dual Challenge let's you further increase your marking and punishing abilities at Epic.

Offense
Weapon Expertise and later Weapon Focus are always useful, and you can improved damage further with Agile Tempest.
Repel Charge should reliably generate a few extra attacks each encounter, and becomes even better if you have improved OAs. Back To The Wall is a very useful feat to improve accuracy and defense, as long as your campaign provides sufficient closed quarters. Two Weapon Opening, Reckless Attacker and Triumphant Attack make nice use of the incread crit frequency. Epic Resurgence and Martial Mastery provide power recovery at Epic. Striking Resurgences let's you use your Second Wind without giving up your attack for that round.
There are a large number of differnt Style feats, which often provide useful bonuses and nice flavour, especially if you are looking for specific benefits.

Assassin
The Assassin has a good choice of close blast and multi-attack encounter powers, that pair well with your multi-marking / -resist strategy, including a nice variant of Come and Get It (Well of Shades). The Daily powers can help out with encounter long single-target buffs, such as an accuracy boost (Grave Spike), teleport chasing (Shadow Soul), increase melee reach (Sundered Shadow) as well has having a selection of Conjurations to attack even more targets or increase your control capabilities (for example Twilight Assassin, Wall of Shadows or Guild of Shadows). The utility powers are not particularly strong again, but can serve certain flavour or close gaps in a specific build.
As feats Killer in the Crowd and Minion of the Dark deserve some special mentioning.

Monk
The Monk is a master of mobility and defense. The Encounter powers offer both good control and come with a nice movement power attached, but should be switched with your Fighter powers with care, because they usually are only single target powers. The Daily powers on the other hand provide some devastating multi target powers (Spinning Leoapard Maneuver, Crane Dance or Twilight Touch) or offer an Encounter long buff (Harmonious Thunder). The Utilities offer a wide variety of defensive and movement oriented powers, which help well with your Defender duties (Careful Stride, Centered Defense).

Paragon Path
Kensei is a very well rounded Paragon Path, which increases both accuracy and damage and has a decent set of powers. Pit Fighter and Son of Mercy can increase damage even more, but require a substantial amount of Wis investment, while Shock Trooper gets by without Wis but also gets a bit less damage in the package.
Swordmaster is comparatively weak, but nice if you're interested in power recycling.
Dreadnought is your go to for sheer toughness and getting rid of conditions. Rakehell Duellist focused on increasing the attack frequency and defense of dual wielders.
You also should consider any path with racial requirements you meet, as they're often very good.

Epic Destiny
Demigod (and its cousins) is wellrounded and good as usual. Punisher of the Gods makes good use of your increased attack and thus crit rate. Ceaseless Guardian is a bit more defensive, but provide very valuable resistance to daze and stun. Eternal Seeker lets you mix and match other strong powers, such as Blade Cascade from the Ranger. Deadly Trickster has some nice features, and you are one of the few Fighters who effortlessly qualifies for it. Eternal Defender can be a good pick for pure damage, but you might run into problems due missing the off-hand quality on the largest possible weapons - it's mainly a pick for the variant builds. Undying Warrior is your choice if you think your just not tough enough yet.



Variants


Battlerager Vigor
The idea is to increase the resilience even further by regularly gaining temporary HP, thereby also switching to Con for more Surges and HP overall. The logical step is to switch to dual axes or dual hammers, too, get the most out of the increased Con.
Problems are a loss in AC (up to two points), a significant loss in Reflex and a loss of accuracy. There is also always the conflict between Dual Strike for more resist triggers, Brash Strike for more accuracy and Crushing Surge for more tHP, and this conflict goes on all the same with encounter powers, as non-invigorating powers lose about 60% of the possible tHP compared to the invigorating but generally weaker powers (40% vs 100% on hit, 0% vs 60% on miss).
The damage can be lower or higher overall, but tends to be much less reliable than with Tempest Technique, and tHP from other sources can often go to waste. In summary the expected performance will be lower against many enemies at once and slightly better against single strong enemies.

Fighter Weapon Talent
This build largely plays out like any standard Weapon Talent build, being independent of choice for shield or two-handed weapon, a particular weapon group and Con, Wis or Dex.
It relys on multi-attack and especially burst powers to generate attacks against as many as targets possible in the first few rounds, operating under the assumption that at the time these encounter powers run out most of the foes will already be dealt with.

Polearm Builds
During Heroic they mostly play like any other Fighter Weapon Talent build with a focus on balancing Dex and Wis, gaining their true power in Paragon with the arrival of Polearm Gamble to generate many extra attacks to trigger more resistances and also to stop the enemies dead in their tracks (or worse). The build trades control for raw damage output and toughness / defense, although the recent arrival of PHB3 feats can migitate some of these lacks.
Key powers include forced movement from Footwork Lure and any encounter powers that pushes or slides, preferably again those targeting multiple enemies. The key feat is Polearm Momentum to knock all enemies prone which were pushed or slid at least two squares, which is achieved by wearing Rushing Cleats and possibly taking Spear Push. This can also be done with OAs by combining either a Glaive with Heavy Blade Opportunist, a Spear with Rushing Cleats and Swift Spear or Forceful Opportunist and any Polearm with Rushing Cleats and/or Spear Push. In case your DM regularly uses a charge and creatures with reach consider picking up Repel Charge.
The biggest challenge the build faces is when the enemies either have piled up on the Fighter, getting through his curtain of Polearm Gamble, or worse have circumvented him and stand in the midst of his less durable allies.



Putting All Into Practise


First we examine the most bog standard example - a Half-Orf Tempest. The primary focus was to provide a well rounded Fighter, that can take a punch and still threatens the enemies aggresively. The remaining options were built around not only solid DPR, but being able to nova one mob out of combat as early as possible.
Hence the usual tactic is to move in and check if triggering Come and Get It is beneficial. Afterwards the multiattacks are triggered in rapid succession. Battle Fury Stance is used primary as burst damage tool, and all other utilities and daily choices are geared towards improving specific performance or filling some usual Fighter weaknesses.
If the build isn't aggressive enough for you, the offensive variant provides an example that is virtually guaranteed to nova a mob, but it loses the resilience of the Iron Body Ki Focus for it. But even the more defensive variant should give any Striker a good run for his money.

Cut (defensive)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Cut (defensive), level 16
Half-Orc, Fighter, Shock Trooper
Fighter: Combat Superiority
Fighter Talents: Tempest Technique

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 22, Con 12, Dex 22, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 11.

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


AC: 33 Fort: 32 Reflex: 31 Will: 26
HP: 117 Surges: 11 Surge Value: 29

TRAINED SKILLS
Intimidate +25, Endurance +15, Athletics +18, Stealth +18

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +15, Arcana +7, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +10, Heal +10, History +7, Insight +10, Nature +10, Perception +10, Religion +7, Streetwise +8, Thievery +13

FEATS
Level 1: Light Blade Expertise
Level 2: Monastic Disciple
Level 4: Weapon Focus (Light Blade)
Level 6: Thirst for Battle
Level 8: Midnight Blade Student
Level 10: Improved Defenses
Level 11: Deft Blade
Level 12: Mobile Challenge
Level 14: Deadly Draw
Level 16: Nimble Blade

POWERS
Fighter at-will 1: Dual Strike
Fighter at-will 1: Footwork Lure
Monastic Disciple: Stone Fist Flurry of Blows
Fighter encounter 1: Serpent's Coil
Fighter daily 1: Villain's Menace
Fighter utility 2: Battle Fury Stance
Fighter encounter 3: Rain of Blows
Fighter daily 5: Rain of Steel
Fighter utility 6: Glowering Threat
Fighter encounter 7: Come and Get It
Fighter daily 9: Dancing Defense
Fighter utility 10: Fighter's Grit
Fighter encounter 13: Bash and Pummel (replaces Serpent's Coil)
Fighter daily 15: Dust Storm Assault (replaces Villain's Menace)
Fighter utility 16: Mighty Surge

ITEMS
Iron Body Ki Focus +3, Rhythm Blade Short sword +1, Master's Blade Short sword +1, Amulet of Protection +4, Iron Armbands of Power (heroic tier), Strikebacks (heroic tier), Cincture of the Dragon Spirit (heroic tier), Boots of the Fencing Master (heroic tier), Backlash Tattoo (heroic tier), Casque of Tactics (heroic tier), Screaming Darkhide Armor +4, Power Jewel (heroic tier)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

Cut (offensive)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Cut (offensive), level 16
Half-Orc, Fighter, Shock Trooper
Fighter: Combat Superiority
Fighter Talents: Tempest Technique

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 22, Con 12, Dex 22, Int 9, Wis 14, Cha 11.

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


AC: 32 Fort: 31 Reflex: 29 Will: 25
HP: 117 Surges: 11 Surge Value: 29

TRAINED SKILLS
Intimidate +25, Endurance +15, Athletics +18, Thievery +18

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +15, Arcana +7, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +10, Heal +10, History +7, Insight +10, Nature +10, Perception +10, Religion +7, Stealth +13, Streetwise +8

FEATS
Level 1: Light Blade Expertise
Level 2: Silvery Glow
Level 4: Sneak of Shadows
Level 6: Thirst for Battle
Level 8: Midnight Blade Student
Level 10: Wintertouched
Level 11: Lasting Frost
Level 12: Nimble Blade
Level 14: Novice Power
Level 16: Improved Defenses

POWERS
Fighter at-will 1: Dual Strike
Fighter at-will 1: Footwork Lure
Fighter encounter 1: Serpent's Coil
Fighter daily 1: Villain's Menace
Fighter utility 2: Battle Fury Stance
Fighter encounter 3: Rain of Blows
Fighter daily 5: Rain of Steel
Fighter utility 6: Mighty Sprint
Fighter encounter 7: Come and Get It
Fighter daily 9: Dancing Defense
Fighter utility 10: Fighter's Grit
Fighter encounter 13: Bash and Pummel (retrained to Low Slash at Novice Power) (replaces Serpent's Coil)
Fighter daily 15: Unyielding Avalanche (replaces Villain's Menace)
Fighter utility 16: Mighty Surge

ITEMS
Cincture of the Dragon Spirit (heroic tier), Boots of the Fencing Master (heroic tier), Backlash Tattoo (heroic tier), Casque of Tactics (heroic tier), Screaming Darkhide Armor +4, Frost Short sword +3, Frost Dagger +2, Gloves of Ice (paragon tier), Iron Armbands of Power (paragon tier), Cloak of Distortion +3, Power Jewel (heroic tier), Siberys Shard of Merciless Cold (paragon tier), Siberys Shard of Merciless Cold (heroic tier)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======


As variant we now introduce a Weapon Talent / Flail / Pit Fighter. He is more geared towards multi target bursts, and makes up for his lack of punch on his MBAs (lest your DM is generous towards the recent Pit Fighter nerf) with stronger control. Furthermore it demonstrates the great synergy between resistance and regeneration.
Again an offensive variant is provided as well. For both you might consider switching to Heavy Blades in Epic, when you have more room for control on MBAs, profit from the lower Dex requirement for Weapon Mastery and have room to trade Rain of Blows / Sweeping Blow. With HBO, Focused Superiority and Brash Strike & Vigilant Justice Style, or In the offensive variant Bracers of Tactical Blows / Rapid Strike Bracers you can add your Wis even to your important MBAs.

Clobber (defensive)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Clobber (defensive), level 16
Longtooth Shifter, Fighter, Pit Fighter
Fighter: Combat Superiority
Fighter Talents: One-handed Weapon Talent

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 22, Con 12, Dex 16, Int 9, Wis 20, Cha 11.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 11, Dex 15, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 10.


AC: 34 Fort: 34 Reflex: 29 Will: 29
HP: 117 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 29

TRAINED SKILLS
Intimidate +19, Endurance +18, Athletics +19, Perception +18

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +9, Arcana +7, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +13, Heal +13, History +7, Insight +13, Nature +13, Religion +7, Stealth +9, Streetwise +8, Thievery +9

FEATS
Level 1: Master at Arms
Level 2: Monastic Disciple
Level 4: Weapon Focus (Flail)
Level 6: Cruel Cut Style
Level 8: Shield Push (retrained to Lashing Flail at Level 11)
Level 10: Improved Defenses
Level 11: Hindering Shield
Level 12: Marked Scourge
Level 14: Deadly Draw
Level 16: Vexing Flanker

POWERS
Fighter at-will 1: Cleave
Fighter at-will 1: Footwork Lure
Monastic Disciple: Centered Flurry of Blows
Fighter encounter 1: Hack and Hew
Fighter daily 1: Driving Attack
Fighter utility 2: Battle Fury Stance
Fighter encounter 3: Rain of Blows
Fighter daily 5: Rain of Steel
Fighter utility 6: Glowering Threat
Fighter encounter 7: Come and Get It
Fighter daily 9: Thicket of Blades
Fighter utility 10: Fighter's Grit
Fighter encounter 13: Storm of Blows (replaces Hack and Hew)
Fighter daily 15: Dust Storm Assault (replaces Driving Attack)
Fighter utility 16: Mighty Surge

ITEMS
Iron Body Ki Focus +3, Dwarven Stormscale Armor +4, Amulet of Protection +4, The Skinsplitter Alhulak +1, Heavy Shield, Cincture of the Dragon Spirit (heroic tier), Boots of the Fencing Master (heroic tier), Backlash Tattoo (heroic tier), Iron Armbands of Power (heroic tier), Strikebacks (heroic tier), Casque of Tactics (heroic tier), Power Jewel (heroic tier), Blood Fury Drow Long Knife +1
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======

Clobber (offensive)
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Clobber (offensive), level 16
Longtooth Shifter, Fighter, Pit Fighter
Fighter: Combat Superiority
Fighter Talents: One-handed Weapon Talent

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 22, Con 12, Dex 16, Int 9, Wis 20, Cha 11.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 16, Con 11, Dex 15, Int 8, Wis 14, Cha 10.


AC: 34 Fort: 34 Reflex: 29 Will: 29
HP: 117 Surges: 10 Surge Value: 29

TRAINED SKILLS
Intimidate +19, Endurance +18, Athletics +19, Perception +18

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +9, Arcana +7, Bluff +8, Diplomacy +8, Dungeoneering +13, Heal +13, History +7, Insight +13, Nature +13, Religion +7, Stealth +9, Streetwise +8, Thievery +9

FEATS
Level 1: Master at Arms
Level 2: Silvery Glow
Level 4: Cruel Cut Style
Level 6: Wild Senses
Level 8: Monastic Disciple
Level 10: Deadly Draw
Level 11: Lashing Flail
Level 12: Marked Scourge
Level 14: Reckless Attacker
Level 16: Improved Defenses

POWERS
Fighter at-will 1: Cleave
Fighter at-will 1: Footwork Lure
Monastic Disciple: Stone Fist Flurry of Blows
Fighter encounter 1: Hack and Hew
Fighter daily 1: Driving Attack
Fighter utility 2: Battle Fury Stance
Fighter encounter 3: Rain of Blows
Fighter daily 5: Rain of Steel
Fighter utility 6: Mighty Sprint
Fighter encounter 7: Come and Get It
Fighter daily 9: Thicket of Blades
Fighter utility 10: Fighter's Grit
Fighter encounter 13: Sweeping Blow (replaces Hack and Hew)
Fighter daily 15: Unyielding Avalanche (replaces Driving Attack)
Fighter utility 16: Mighty Surge

ITEMS
Dwarven Stormscale Armor +4, Amulet of Protection +4, Heavy Shield, Cincture of the Dragon Spirit (heroic tier), Boots of the Fencing Master (heroic tier), Backlash Tattoo (heroic tier), Casque of Tactics (heroic tier), Power Jewel (heroic tier), Blood Fury Drow Long Knife +1, Gauntlets of Blood (heroic tier), Radiant Triple-headed Alhulak +3, Rain of Hammers Ki Focus +1, Couters of Second Chances (heroic tier), Siberys Shard of Radiance (paragon tier)
====== Copy to Clipboard and Press the Import Button on the Summary Tab ======



Further Readings
-- the Art of Defending (by mkill) for strategies how to fulfill the job as defender well
-- the Fighter Handbook (by lordduskblade) for further opinions and options, such as racial feats, items, etc
-- the Assassin Handbook (by erleni) for Assassin stabbity
-- the Monk Handbook (by furious_kender) for Monk punching


Feedback, in-play experiences, criticism and suggestion are always welcome.
The big issue I see is that the damage reduction of the Iron Body Ki Focus is quickly outgrown. It's extremely powerful in heroic tier, a little low in paragon tier, and completely irrelevant in epic tier.

It's a really cool concept, but in practice I doubt it'll be all that potent. 
"One skilled at battle takes a stand in the ground of no defeat And so does not lose the enemy's defeat. Therefore, the victorious military is first victorious and after that does battle. The defeated military first does battle and after that seeks victory." -- the Art of War
The big issue I see is that the damage reduction of the Iron Body Ki Focus is quickly outgrown. It's extremely powerful in heroic tier, a little low in paragon tier, and completely irrelevant in epic tier.

It's a really cool concept, but in practice I doubt it'll be all that potent. 


That's a very valid question, which urged me to run some detailed numbers:

- Resistance Iron Body Ki Focus at level 5 vs Monster Damage at L5 (normal expression, medium): 3 vs 1d10+4 = 3 vs 9.5 = 32%
-- the same at L18: 6 vs 2d8+7 = 6 vs 16 = 37.5%
-- the same at L30: 8 vs 3d8+10 = 8 vs 23.5 = 34%

- RIBKF at L5 vs Monster Damage at L5 (limited expression, medium): 3 vs 3d8+4 = 3 vs 17.5 = 17%
-- the same at L18: 6 vs 4d10+7 = 6 vs 29 = 21%
-- the same at L30: 8 vs 5d10+9 = 8 vs 37.5 = 21%

- RIBKF at level 5 vs Toughness at level 5: 3 vs 5 = 60%
-- the same at L18: 6 vs 10 = 60%
-- the same at L30: 8 vs 15 = 53%

- RIBKF at L30 vs Bahamut's (level 36 solo) Bite attack: 8 vs 3d12+10 = 8 vs 29.5 = 27%
- RIBKF at L30 vs Bahamut's Disintegration Breath: 8 vs 4d12+10 & 15 ong & 10 ong (minimum) = 8 vs 61 (min) = 39% (min)


So I think those are some quite impressive numbers.
Usually you resist about 30% of each attack, which seems to stay relatively constant (within certain natural variants) throughout the levels. And even from the worst attacks you compensate about 20%.
Also remember that many dangerous enemies either come in numbers, through multi-attacks or by using ongoing damage - against those the Iron Curtain strategy is especially effective. This even gets better when defensive buffs, offensive debuffs and especially regeneration come into play, as you compensate even more of the already reduced incoming damage.
Furthermore this build gives up little (choice of multiclass, main weapon enchantment) to not only gain a good chunk of resistance, but also gains the option to upgrade your weapons with additional strong defensive or offensive enchantments as Rhythm Blade, Master's Blade or Vengeful Weapon.
Not sure why you're comparing Iron Body Ki to Toughness, they're not mutually exclusive.  They increase your survivability in very different ways.
If you are going to try compare them make sure to include the amount by which toughness increases your surge value, and then try to estimate how often you'll be hit in a typical encounter vs how many additional hp toughness will provide over the course of that typical encounter.
 
The concept has recieved the following additions:
- variants how to implement the Iron Curtain with other (non-Tempest) Fighter builds
- a few example calculations how strong the damage reduction is
- an example build for starting Paragon
- small extra notes of regeneration, the Parrying Dagger, multi-weapon use and Eternal Defender in the optimisation section


Not sure why you're comparing Iron Body Ki to Toughness, they're not mutually exclusive.  They increase your survivability in very different ways.
If you are going to try compare them make sure to include the amount by which toughness increases your surge value, and then try to estimate how often you'll be hit in a typical encounter vs how many additional hp toughness will provide over the course of that typical encounter.
 


Of course they're not mutually exclusive - it was just one example of many, in this case comparing it to a feat that is undisputed considered strong.
Suffice to say that even with multiple healings available, the Iron Body Key Focus will exceed Toughness in effectiveness after a mere three or four hits. But this time I'll leave the detailed calculations to the motivated reader.
I found time to dig through Martial Power 2 and update the concept.
There are a few nice alternatives for powers, feats and PP, but what really sticks out is Midnight Blade Style (although it lacks a matching PP) and Deft Blade, which significantly increase the so much desired accuracy of this build.
I added the MC Monk option from PHB3 to the guide, making the concept much more variable than only having Assassin as MC option. Both classes still offer good and unique benefit, so spending that MC is sure no loss.
If you know any other ways to be able to use Ki Foci as implemet, please let me know, as this would help the flexibility of concept greatly.

I'd also appreciate some more feedback or especially some in-play experiences from somebody who used this guide.
About weapons, what about a Double Sword? It would rise your defenses on plate level with Two Weapon Defense and wearing chain, while having the same properties and numbers as short swords. 
Adopt one today!
Good idea in general, but it doesn't really work for this build, because it's already better. ;)
Double weapons recieve their enchantment to both weapon ends, which usually is nice to save money. For this build, due the reliance on the Ki Focus, we don't have that problem, and thus we can place other enchantments on our weapons - those don't work on the attack itself, but anything else is a fair game.

So let's compare:
Because we want defense, we usually carry one Rythm Blade (L3 enchantment) to increase our Shield Bonus from TWD to +2. For the Double Sword, that's the end, and if we don't take it, we actually lose defense.
So instead I suggested the Parrying Dagger if you really want to burn an extra feat, although that's hardly necessary. Sure you lose one point of damage per W on off-hand attacks, but those are only a third or a forth of our total attacks and low W attacks anyway. And instead we can use a Vengeful Weapon (L5 enchantment), to gain +2 attack / +1d10 damage for one round per encounter (more bonus damage on higher levels). Considering Combat Challenge, OAs, bonus attacks from Stances or Rain of Blows that vastly more than we lose on the off-hand (with AP, Power Jewel and 2x Rain of Blows we can hammer a mob up to six times already in heroic...)
You've been assimilated into the Handbook, laddie.
Cheers
I thought ki foci could only be used with assassin or monk powers

Infernis
I see, forgot about the Rythm Blade enhancement.

Acually he does not use a ki focus for his attack. He uses his ki focus to make a normal weapon into a magic weapon +x and uses this new ki enhanced weapon for his attacks. Per raw this is legal, the CB agrees on this.
Adopt one today!
 If you hit an opponent with an attack using this ki focus, you gain resistance to all of that target’s attacks equal to 2 + this implement’s enhancement bonus until the end of your next turn.


-The wording from the lvl 5 enchantment, bolded for emphasis.

Now you just need to have all implement powers and you are good to go. 
I'm perfectly fine with Weapon attacks.
As p203, last paragraph, PHB3 explains, I simply use the Ki Focus enchantment instead of any weapon enchantment when attacking, which is allowed as I'm proficient with Ki Foci. The shenangians like Rhythm Blade etc are only used when I'm not attacking. ;)
Actually I think PHB3 restricted this build to assassin multiclass only since monk multiclass feats state that monk implements can only be used with monk powers.
Adopt one today!

Good catch, but the rule text on p203 still allows it. It just says that if I'm able to use Ki Foci as Implement at all, I can also enhance any Weapon attack I make with them (specific beats general).






But with the blast shield down, I can't even see!  How am I supposed to fight?  (Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Hrhr !
You Slash and Slash Again ! And you make them Come [to you] and Get It ! And you unleash a Rain of Blows onto them !

But seriously... You're fighting Iron Curtain Style - you flail your blades around wildly and just follow the screams and clash of metal and scent of blood. You are bound to hit something and possibly even parry a blow or two - if you can't predict, what you're doing, how could the enemy !? Laughing
I reordered and reformated the OP somewhat.
It's more readable now, I think, but it's definately loong. Still I wouldn't know how to lose things, without either cutting significant content or spoilering everything.
Thoughts ?

Edit: Screw that, tooo much text - spoilered everything. It's a bit more clicky, but much less a wall of text now.
I've got a longtooth shifter I've been playing as a spiked chain gladiator, but I've been looking for something new and different to do with him. I think I'll indulge myself with the LFR rebuild rules, and see if I can use this build concept for him. I've just hit 5th level with him, and he has a fair bit of coin saved up to spend, too.

EDIT: I've been toying with the CB program to see what I can build, and I notice that it specifically says you cannot use the properties of you rmagic weapons if you use the Ki Focus enhancement bonuses to attack. It's the last sentence in the paragraph describing Assassins using Ki Focus with magic weapons.
EDIT: I've been toying with the CB program to see what I can build, and I notice that it specifically says you cannot use the properties of you rmagic weapons if you use the Ki Focus enhancement bonuses to attack. It's the last sentence in the paragraph describing Assassins using Ki Focus with magic weapons.



Yes, I know that.
But this can actually be exploited in a positive way - look under "weapon echantments" in the optimisation options. Generally I advise wielding two seperate weapons (usually two Short Swords), as you don't need to pay double echantments like usualy, but you sure can use a double weapon - although with a Spiked Chain you not only use your second bonus enchantment slot, but also the ability to pick up a good Weapon Focus, as the two ends count as different weapon types (easily houseruled, but bad for LFR).
I hadn't realized that it included the non-magical properties (high crit, defensive, etc) but thats the way it's worded when you look it up under Assassin, too. Still an interesting concept, though, and it might work even better for a swordmage/cleric hybrid I have. In the CB, as long as I select a heavy/light blade weapon, the Ki Focus can sub for either weapon or implement attacks - no need for Holy Symbols (except for Daily item powers).

EDIT: This is my hybrid, using the Iron Curtain idea. Originally this character was played as a sort of battle cleric, neutralizing enemy damage (rather than healing it). His gear isn't optimized, it's just what he had from his previous build (before I shuffled things around and spent most of his cash). In previous play he was very good at reducing enemy damage (aegis of shielding, channeling shield, dimensional vortex and MoG are all fantastic powers). With the Iron Curtain idea, and changing his cleric at-will to Sonnlinor's Hammer, he can reduce damage from a 1v1 opponent by 5 (Resist 3 and Reduction 2= 5) which is pretty good in heroic tier.

====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Kor Silverfist, level 5
Dwarf, Cleric|Swordmage
Swordmage Aegis (Hybrid): Aegis of Shielding
Versatile Expertise: Versatile Expertise (Heavy Blade)
Versatile Expertise: Versatile Expertise (Ki Focuses)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 8, Con 14, Dex 14, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 14.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 8, Con 12, Dex 13, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 13.


AC: 20 Fort: 16 Reflex: 19 Will: 19
HP: 47 Surges: 9 Surge Value: 11

TRAINED SKILLS
Insight +10, Endurance +11, Arcana +10, Acrobatics +9

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Bluff +4, Diplomacy +4, Dungeoneering +7, Heal +5, History +5, Intimidate +4, Nature +5, Perception +5, Religion +5, Stealth +4, Streetwise +4, Thievery +4, Athletics +1

FEATS
Level 1: Acolyte of the Veil
Level 2: Versatile Expertise
Level 4: Weapon Proficiency (Spiked shield)

POWERS
Hybrid at-will 1: Sword Burst
Hybrid at-will 1: Sonnlinor's Hammer
Hybrid encounter 1: Divine Glow
Hybrid daily 1: Moment of Glory
Hybrid utility 2: Channeling Shield
Hybrid encounter 3: Dimensional Vortex
Hybrid daily 5: Swordmage Shielding Fire

ITEMS
Rhythm Blade Spiked shield +1, Iron Armbands of Power (heroic tier), Iron Body Ki Focus +1, Bag of Holding (heroic tier), Holy Symbol of Hope +1, Amulet of Protection +2, Adventurer's Kit, Leather Armor of Sudden Recovery +1, Frost Khopesh +1
============

Well, I ran the SM/Cleric combo last night and it worked very well. Most of the trouble that I had came from me being very out of practice playing a defender (lol), but the damage resistance worked very well, especially when combined with Gauntlets of Arcane Might. I took Transposing Lunge instead of Dimensional Vortex, and that was a good choice.

I was able to reduce my damage by 5 no matter who I was fighting, getting 2 temps (gauntlets) + 3 DR when fighting my marked target, or reducing damage by 2 (Sonnlinor's) + 3 DR when I fought anyone I hadn't marked. That made me remarkably durable, and by the end of the adventure I had burned 4 of my 8 surges and been knocked out once (the enemy focused fire on me, 7 attacks, and got 2 crits, blasting me to -7 HP). The Iron Curtain effect felt very much like having MoG running for me (personally).
Glad you liked it, and definately a cool adaption of the idea.
Just as a word of warning - while the CB seems to allow it, I think technically you can't use your IBKF with your implement powers as long as you are no X|Monk or X|Assassin Hybrid. So make sure you have an alternate version of the char with you, if an LFR DM calls you on that.

But try to push you Int/Wis a bit - hitting is very important for that build due its strong riders.
And just use a one handed Blade - it's more precise, less feat intensive and you not only have resistance but get +2 AC from your warding, so no need for off-hand a shield (even a Spiked one).
Glad you liked it, and definately a cool adaption of the idea.
Just as a word of warning - while the CB seems to allow it, I think technically you can't use your IBKF with your implement powers as long as you are no X|Monk or X|Assassin Hybrid. So make sure you have an alternate version of the char with you, if an LFR DM calls you on that.



Hmmm...I'll take another look at that, then, but I'm pretty sure that it works as long as I use Hvy/Lgt Blades (my normal implement). I know that CB definitely does not allow the IBKF when I use any other kind of weapon for my implement powers.

But try to push you Int/Wis a bit - hitting is very important for that build due its strong riders.
And just use a one handed Blade - it's more precise, less feat intensive and you not only have resistance but get +2 AC from your warding, so no need for off-hand a shield (even a Spiked one).



Well, as a hybrid I have to spend a feat to get the SM Warding feature (which will give me either +1 or +3 AC if I go one handed). It also costs one feat for Spiked Shield proficiency, which gives me +2 AC and +2 REF, when I use the Rythym Blade enchantment. I trade one point of AC for 2 points of REF, effectively. I had the Khopesh from before, when I had Dwarven Weapon Training as a feat and wanted the extra damage while still using a heavy blade (I got it during the Weekend in the Realms event, as a "free" magic item that didn't use up one of my picks).
I assumed that you'd just wield you Spiked Shield.
Just wanted to point out in my experience you'd better save a feat (plenty of things to do with it at your level) and use a plain +3 Blade. AC is more important than Ref, and you'd hit better as well. I'd also push up Int and maybe also Wis at least by one point each: Int 17+1, Wis 15+2+1 (you can rebuild these in at level 8 in LFR, which is very useful.)
i believe that multi classing with monk is not that great because ki focus only apply to implement attacks while multi classing assassin lets you gain ki focus with no restriction

any comments on my statement is welcome if i have misread or misinterpreted something

thanks
As I already explained upthread, Monk and Assassin both work equally well...

I'm perfectly fine with Weapon attacks.
As p203, last paragraph, PHB3 explains, I simply use the Ki Focus enchantment instead of any weapon enchantment when attacking, which is allowed as I'm proficient with Ki Foci. The shenangians like Rhythm Blade etc are only used when I'm not attacking. ;)

Good catch, but the rule text on p203 still allows it. It just says that if I'm able to use Ki Foci as Implement at all, I can also enhance any Weapon attack I make with them (specific beats general).

yeah but the monk multiclass specifies that you can only use ki focus on monk powers, which are all implement (last time i check, maybe it changed), so the important part isnt that ki focus is implement, its that you cant use it for your other powers
assassin, on the other hand, says you gain ki focus implements.  Thus it applies to all attacks, not just assassin powers

so in my opinion, unless i miread monk multiclass, monk multiclassing is inferior to assassin

sorry for not being clear enough on my first reply
*sigh* Please read rule sources I provided (PHB3, p203, last two paragraphs).
I don't use Ki Foci as Implement - I use them as to enhance my Weapon attacks, which is something entirely different... and has been discussed already in this thread.

Summary: Monk and Assassin work both perfectly fine and allow full use of all features of this builds.

   I'm sorry to come back at you with this, but specific rules overide general, and the monastic discipline says :



Monastic Disciple [Multiclass Monk]


Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Dex 13
Benefit: You gain training in one skill from the monk’s class skills list.
Choose one of the monk’s Flurry of Blows powers. You can use that power once per encounter.
In addition, you can wield monk implements when using monk powers and monk paragon path powers.

   The way this reads, you can only use monk implements (ki focus for the benefit of the discussion) when using monk powers, not on all powers, not even BMA.  So i agree with you that ki focus can be used with to enhance a weapon attack, but not with the monatic discipline unless you're using a monk attack.

compared to :

Shadow Initiate [Multiclass Assassin]


Prerequisite: Dex 13
Benefit: You gain training in the Stealth skill. Twice per encounter, you can use the assassin’s shroud power. In addition, you can wield assassin implements.

or :

Acolyte of the Veil [Multiclass Assassin]


Heroic Tier
Prerequisite: Dex 13
Benefit: You gain training in the Acrobatics or Stealth skill. Once per encounter, you can use the shadow step power. In addition, you can wield assassin implements.

I'd really like to believe you can use monastic discipline on all attacks, it just doesn't read that way

Thanks for your repeated interventions on making this clear

P.S. i write this much because i really like the build

Monastic Disciple is totally irrelevant except that it allows me to use Ki Foci as Implement at all - and even if it would be just for the Power call "Fancy Ball Juggling".
The relevant part is on p203, which explains the specific interactions of using Ki Foci for enhance Weapon Attacks - which is the definately more specific rule, because Monastic Disciple doesn't address Weapon Attacks. PLEASE read p203, as I already mentioned in my first reply and upthread, because we're not getting anywhere here !

OK, this one has recieved a well deserved update to recent books and rule changes.

I also had the pleasure to run two characters together in a recent Delve here, pairing this (as Half-Orc (Monk) / Shock Trooper @ L12) with my Toppling Giants (as Flail user / Battlefront Leader / Battlelord of Kord). It was a trendemous success in smoking mobs early and then being hard as hell to take down, and if I find the time I'll write a more detailed log (probably appearing in my Iaijutsu handbook).

Besides some minor tweaks, the two major updates for this are:
-- Updated damage / resist ratios for MM3 mobs. Even then you can expect to lower an additional 20% damage, which is already quite significant for a Defender - and as usual high damage spikes come from multi-attacks / ongoing, which favours the Iron Body approach even more.
-- Expanded the example builds section with more fleshed out L16 examples, all using the trendemous freedom provided for brutal offense, well capable of novaing a mob like the best Strikers and still running as full, high-DPR Defender afterwards.

Enjoy !
Hey, love the guide (sorry about the number of crazies who are yelling at you for using the implements, completely ridiculous), just curious why you're not recommending katars for use. Crit damage is good stuff and with multiple targeting even moreso.
Funny enough I completely forgot them. ;)
Just did the numbers - they're not worth it until Paragon, but once Epic arrives when we have 3W and Light Blade Mastery they go up much in value. Good suggestion, I'll add it !
























do the abilities of superior ki foci apply to weapon attacks made with them? for instance when using your Ki Foci's enhancement for weapon attacks, does that qualify it for superior impliment effects such as Reaching for the transcendant ki foci? +1 reach with all attacks would be pretty baller and worth a feat I think.














I have a question about this build. That paragraph on page 203 of PHB3 that is refered to earlier in the thread says that when I use an implement (iron body) through a weapon, that I have to replace the weapons property with the implements property, and that both can't be used at the same time. Wouldn't that mean that if I used Iron Body Ki Focus though my Rhythm Blade (i.e. Dual Strike) that I would gain Iron Body's property (the DR) but LOSE the Rhythm Blade's property (+1 to AC and Reflex)?

Please let me know if I am mistaken. Otherwise, it's a very intriguing build.
I love this build concept. The calculations you give showing it's viable all the way up are really helpful too - thanks for the hard work!

You say it's not fully compatible with Frostcheese, but I'm wondering why? Is it just because you can't have a frost weapon? It would still work with a whetstone, right? Or does the fact that you're attacking through your Ki stop the whetstone from working too?

Obv frostcheese is most effective against 1 target, and we're trying to hit as many as possible, so it's not optimal. I'm just wondering whether it can work at all?
I have a question about this build. That paragraph on page 203 of PHB3 that is refered to earlier in the thread says that when I use an implement (iron body) through a weapon, that I have to replace the weapons property with the implements property, and that both can't be used at the same time. Wouldn't that mean that if I used Iron Body Ki Focus though my Rhythm Blade (i.e. Dual Strike) that I would gain Iron Body's property (the DR) but LOSE the Rhythm Blade's property (+1 to AC and Reflex)?

Please let me know if I am mistaken. Otherwise, it's a very intriguing build.



You are correct, however, you only lose the Rhythm Blade property during your attack. Atleast, that is the way I understand it.  
If you use Drow Long Knives, then you can take the Deft Hurler Style feat and Cleave. This can actually be better than Dual Strike, as you're not only getting your Str to damage on the first attack, you also get a RBA that doesn't provoke. So not only are you doing more damage, you're also not restricted to creatures next to you (but they can be), which vastly increases your chance of marking two creatures.

I currently have a 6th level fighter and have just switched to this. This is how the at-wills compare:
Dual Strike: +14 for d6+5, twice (average 17)
Cleave Hurler: +14 for d6+10, then +13 for d6+6 (average 23, although -1 to 1 attack makes it more like 22.5).
That's over 30% more damage, and puts you well above the striker goal of 20/rd.

The Criterion of Balic Practice feat further enhances Cleave, allowing you to shift 1 if you hit (ignoring difficult terrain). Of course, you also now have a ranged attack option, as well as the ability to utilize Heavy Blade Opportunity.

It seems to me the main advantages of the Short Sword (over DLK) are for Midnight/Deft Blade to target Ref, rhythm blade, and Rain of Blows giving you 3 attacks. However, until paragon you can wield both a DLK and Short Sword and at least gain the benefits of the Rhythm Blade and Rain of Blows. If you take Kensei PP then you'll have to lose the short sword, but if you don't you can potentially keep that combo until epic, when you'll want Two-Weapon Flurry and Heavy Blade Mastery. But once you're into epic, Cleave is up to 2d6, leaving Dual Strike even further behind (which doesn't get an increase at 21st).

My calculation at level 30 would be something like (Cleave>DualStrike): 2d6+31 + 1d6+21 > 2*(1d6+21) = 62 > 49 - still 25% more, and that's without too much optimization.