Heroes and Zeroes

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For a mental exercise, I'm compiling a roster for two parties. One consists of classes/builds that are generally acknowledged to be top tier by CharOp posters, the other consists of those who are generally considered to be bottom tier. The rules are as follows:



  • The parties should consist of a defender, ranged striker, melee striker, leader and controller

  • Characters selected as individuals, no party tricks like Radiant Mafia, etc...

  • No hybrids

  • No Essentials builds, although other essentials content would be allowed (example - feats)

  • Once class and build selected, I would attempt to optimize to the best of my ability, so no intentional gimpings other than choosing class and build

  • Characters would be assumed to progress in items and gold as though participating in an LFR campaign and consistantly selecting "Bundle X - one uncommon of level or common of level +2", no saving slots for a later level



My initial thoughts are as follows:

The Heroes
Battlerager Fighter
Tactical Warlord
Archery Ranger
Rageblood Vigor Barbarian
Orb of Imposition Wizard



The Zeroes
Ensnaring Swordmage
Devoted (AKA Laser) Cleric
Star Pact Warlock
Bleak Disciple Assassin
Spiritbond Seeker

Any feedback appreciated.
Damn, no Essentials builds? There goes the Enchantment Mage, then.

For The Heroes, I'd definitely replace the Battlerager Fighter with a Weapon Talent Shield Fighter. Battleragers are second-class citizens among Fighters, nowadays. Everything else I can't really argue with.
As long as the battlerager is a dwarf or mul, then it's a pretty good build. With the new MM3 damage expressions, the THP you can generate really comes in handy. Plus, if you pick up plate and shield, you'll have great defenses as well.
You can still build a very effective lazer cleric if you use the new battle cleric's article so that would probably be the strongest character of the group especially if you went with a radiant vulnerability build.  Combined with a starpact warlock you might have a mini-radiant mafia right there without even really trying.  Maybe use a chaos sorcerer instead?

Part of the issue is that none of the pre essentials leader builds are bad, even though some builds might be a little weaker than others.  The only leader I think is weak is the sentinel.

And swarm druid might be the weakest controller since you have to boost dex or int to keep it alive at higher levels.

Invoker might top orb wizard.
As long as the battlerager is a dwarf or mul, then it's a pretty good build. With the new MM3 damage expressions, the THP you can generate really comes in handy. Plus, if you pick up plate and shield, you'll have great defenses as well.



I didn't say Battleragers were bad. I just meant they don't have the potential that WT Fighters do.
You can still build a very effective lazer cleric if you use the new battle cleric's article so that would probably be the strongest character of the group especially if you went with a radiant vulnerability build.  Combined with a starpact warlock you might have a mini-radiant mafia right there without even really trying.  Maybe use a chaos sorcerer instead?

Part of the issue is that none of the pre essentials leader builds are bad, even though some builds might be a little weaker than others.  The only leader I think is weak is the sentinel.



Yeah, I struggle with bad non-essentials leader...

I tossed around runepriest and ardent, because they are poorly supported, but I've seen some really effective examples. (One of my favorite LFR characters is an ardent.) Another thought was wand artificer...no Magic Weapon, but you still get Punishing Eye, and good stuff from there out.



As long as the battlerager is a dwarf or mul, then it's a pretty good build. With the new MM3 damage expressions, the THP you can generate really comes in handy. Plus, if you pick up plate and shield, you'll have great defenses as well.



I didn't say Battleragers were bad. I just meant they don't have the potential that WT Fighters do.



Hmm. My internal tiebreaker would be "best at role". I think a shield WT fighter might be better at defending then a battlerager, which the latter would generally make up with more damage.

More damage absorption, you mean. Part of the package for Weapon Talent Fighters is that you're not chained to Constitution like a Battlerager is, and Wisdom is where all the damage bonuses are at (Pit Fighter, Marked Scourge, Slashing Storm, even Cruel Cut Style - and let's not forget the +1 to hit, either). A Weapon Talent Fighter should be out-damaging a Battlerager fairly handily overall and have superior defenses (and OA's), but the Battlerager brings tons and tons of THP and surges to the table, plus a Shield of Fellowship will let you hand out said temps (which combines with Dreadnought's status shaking abilities to make the gap between them plenty smaller than what it would otherwise be).
I would definitely rate the Runepriest below the Lazer cleric.  Although I suppose it depends on the level involved. is this L30?
In a perfect world, I would want to compare these parties at several different levels....3rd, 6th, 9th, 13th, 16th, 19th, 22nd, 25th and 30th.
My Heroes would be:

Dwarf Fighter Brawler Style
Half Orc Rogue Brutal Scoundrel
Elven Ranger Archery Style
Tiefling Bard Virtue of Valor
Human Wizard Tome of Readiness

Not sure on zeroes        
I have played LFR with a dwarven Battlerager and an Eladrin Tactical Warlord; I agree that both are members I want on my team.

Gondolin IS a StarLock, and I'm trying to get his value > fractions, thank you very much.  (I hope the PH1 Warlock revamp helps with this.)  I'm trying out some non-standard stuff, we'll see how he plays out as an anti-aircraft gun instead of a DPR generator.

P.S. I hope the StarLock power Frigid Darkness becomes CHR/CON.  I can get DPR by stripping away the enemy's AC and enabling my friends to get hits, right?

Best complements I have yet received:

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Making it up as I go along:

{BRJN} If I was writing the Tome of Lore, I would let Auppenser sleep. But I also would have him dream. In his dreaming he re-activates the innate powers of (some) mortal minds. Or his dreaming changes the nature of reality - currently very malleable thanks to Spellplague &c. Or whatever really cool flavor text and pseudo-science explanation people react positively to.

{Lord_Karsus} You know, I like that better than the explanations for the Spellplague.

 

Prepped ahead of time:

I started the thread "1001 Failed Interrogation Results" (which seems to have faded into that great electronic goodnight, alas)

{ADHadh} These are all good and make sense! I just can't come up with something that's not covered here and is not completely ridiculous.

 

My 4e characters:

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Active:

LFR Half-elf StarLock8 Gondolin Nightstar

AoA Dwarf Guardian Druid8 Narvik from House Wavir

Character Ready-to-go:

Neverwinter Dwarven Invoker / Heir of Delzoun, worships Silvanus (!) "Truenamer" - speaks Words of Creation

Concepts I'm kicking around:

"Buggy" Wizard - insect flavor on everything.  His DMPC version is going to become a Lamia.  Becauae lichdom is so cliche.

Halfling Tempest Fighter - just because nobody else is doing it

Shifter Beast-o-phile Druid - for Nentir Vale campaign

My heroes

Fighter - any
Ranger - TWF or ranged
Rogue - any
Warlord - any
Wizard - any non-wand
(backup) Avenger - Pursuit

Wizard, Rogue, and Warlord need to be competently built, for fighter and ranger, if you stay away from foolish choices, it's tough to muck it up.

I don't really have a definite list of zeroes, Battleminds through heroic are rough, Swordmages are kind of annoying because of action economy, Warlocks and Sorcerers are difficult to build well, Runepriest at Paragon and Epic is wondering a lot about what power swap feats to get, and kind of becomes uninteresting as they don't get leadery options, Ardents through heroic are rather weak and narrow, Druids have a few problems depending on the build, and option availability. But despite all that, I could likely make a member of any of those classes that is quite playable.
Zero's I'm thinking:

Binder Warlock
Possib Warden (class hasn't seen any love in a long time)
Assassian (Still hits like a girl)
Seeker (Wish this guy could actually control)

Not really decided on a leader, perhaps Shamen, because ive never seen a really really good one.
Heroes, it seems ok. I prefer Tome build to Orb build in the heroic tier. You can get back Orb in the paragon tier, if you want it. Go illusionist.

Zeroes, the leader imho should be a runepriest or an ardent. Not because they're really bad, but just because a laser cleric isn't really the worst leader, just think about moment of glory, hymn of resurgence, etc.

I still don't like the warlord, but that's a personal bias (which many people have, but i still consider it personal).

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

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As for the Controller slot, are all the Seeker's old Inevitable Shot hijinx pretty much ruined by the free action attack rule?  If that's so I think its probably worse than even a Swarm Druid, since those at least can actually do stuff (despite being autohit by AC attacks).

I've seen a hybrid Runepriest|Warlord in play before, and the Runepriest side was surprisingly good at enabling.  Some of their enabling requires specific party cooperation though, such as using Rune of the Astral Winds on a Warlock equipped with Eldritch Strike and Agile Opportunist.
The Direct Damage Sorcerer of 3.5e: The Mailman
Zero's I'm thinking:

Binder Warlock
Possib Warden (class hasn't seen any love in a long time)
Assassian (Still hits like a girl)
Seeker (Wish this guy could actually control)

Not really decided on a leader, perhaps Shamen, because ive never seen a really really good one.



Warden may not be as good as the fighter, but they are still pretty great thanks to their huge HP and ability to shake off effects. 

Ensaring swordmage is definitely the bottom-tier defender. 
Zero's I'm thinking:

Binder Warlock
Possib Warden (class hasn't seen any love in a long time)
Assassian (Still hits like a girl)
Seeker (Wish this guy could actually control)

Not really decided on a leader, perhaps Shamen, because ive never seen a really really good one.



Warden's are top tier defenders, especiailly once you get to late heroic.  Not quite as good as fighters overall, but about tied with paladins in effectiveness.  The bottom pre essentials defender is an ensnaring swordmage.  Assault swordmage is the next worst, assuming its not a hybrid.  ITs not even a really close comparison.

Shamans have the best enabling at will in the game at the moment and have more than enough other good stuff to be up there with clerics and bards as a very solid leader class.  They are harder to play, but function well if the player knows what he is doing. 

I think I have to go with pure runepriest as the "worst" pre essentials leader because he might not have enough healing to keep a weak party on its feat in a long fight and probably has the fewest options.  But it will still probably be the best overall PC in a zeroes party.

As much as I enjoy Bards, I would argue that "off the shelf" they're worse leaders than Runepriests, particularly after level 10 when the Runepriest radically pumps party DPR given a striker with Agile Opportunist. A Bard designed to fill a specific niche can do so very well, but they require some thought and can easily slip into mediocrity.

The captain of my Zeroes team would be the Ensnaring Swordmage, of course, with his trusty sidekick the Seeker. Add a generic Bard and an Assassin and watch the bad times roll!     

As much as I enjoy Bards, I would argue that "off the shelf" they're worse leaders than Runepriests, particularly after level 10 when the Runepriest radically pumps party DPR given a striker with Agile Opportunist. A Bard designed to fill a specific niche can do so very well, but they require some thought and can easily slip into mediocrity.

The captain of my Zeroes team would be the Ensnaring Swordmage, of course, with his trusty sidekick the Seeker. Add a generic Bard and an Assassin and watch the bad times roll!     



Off-the-shelf Bard requires about zero thought to make it work. Be a Con/Cha race. Put 16s in both stats. Advance the stats. Go War Chanter, the only PHB2 paragon path that asks questions about what your Constitution is. You can be a Half-Elf race(or now Dragonborn or Tiefling) and PHB2 only class/paragon path choices. It doesn't get a lot easier than that.

Not to mention, if you've got a Striker with Agile Opportunist, Bards start handing out OAs like candy, either by healing them after they've been pounded or by moving them if they get missed(if you're going Int/Cha instead of Con/Cha)

Runepriest would be my zero for Leader, simply because they have three big issues:
They don't do a lot of healing.
They're very complicated in play. An average player can easily screw them up.
They don't have a lot of support
 
It's too bad you're not allowing Essentials, because I think the Vampire might give the Assassin a run for its money for "worst striker ever"
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Off-the-shelf Bard requires about zero thought to make it work. Be a Con/Cha race. Put 16s in both stats. Advance the stats. Go War Chanter, the only PHB2 paragon path that asks questions about what your Constitution is. You can be a Half-Elf race(or now Dragonborn or Tiefling) and PHB2 only class/paragon path choices. It doesn't get a lot easier than that.

Not to mention, if you've got a Striker with Agile Opportunist, Bards start handing out OAs like candy, either by healing them after they've been pounded or by moving them if they get missed(if you're going Int/Cha instead of Con/Cha) 

You make it sound so simple, but it isn't quite that. While War Chanter is an excellent PP, the Valor selection of powers is a little threadbare. Or are you planning to juggle wand and sword? Are you going to burn two feat slots for expertise on both? Use a staff as a weapliment via an MC feat? You're either going to burn resources or slide from optimal, pick one.

And free attack on move action >>>> free attack on Majestic Word. What if your big gun doesn't need healing? And the Virtue of Cunning slide is contingent upon your big gun being attacked and missed first. Where's your defender during all of this interplay?

The Runepriest has no weapliment juggling nonsense and a vastly better ally-enabling mechanism.          

Runepriest would be my zero for Leader, simply because they have three big issues:
They don't do a lot of healing.
They're very complicated in play. An average player can easily screw them up.
They don't have a lot of support

If someone asked this board, "+1d6 on X Word or +2/tier damage for everyone in the party, not just the character being healed, including multiattacks," I doubt the overwhelming answer would be, "Give me back my 3.5 pips!" And they don't have to be complicated; just start every action by stating, "I'll take Rune of Destruction please."

Admittedly, they don't have a lot of support. A cleverly built Bard will outperform a cleverly built Runepriest. But a "stock" Bard won't, however YMMV.   




Gondolin IS a StarLock, and I'm trying to get his value > fractions, thank you very much.  (I hope the PH1 Warlock revamp helps with this.)  I'm trying out some non-standard stuff, we'll see how he plays out as an anti-aircraft gun instead of a DPR generator.

P.S. I hope the StarLock power Frigid Darkness becomes CHR/CON.  I can get DPR by stripping away the enemy's AC and enabling my friends to get hits, right?



That's going to be hard at level 5 (assuming your character is still 5th level). I'm also assuming you're a Cha-based Starlock. I didn't notice any major contributions to my party until late Heroic on mine honestly. I built him to be a debuffer, but we had a closed party so no one could really take advantage of what I was doing but me. I've sinced changed him to a Con-lock to better suit my playstyle and the campaign setting (so I could take the Vestige Pact via Two-Fold Pact). Toss in MC-ResourceLord (so I can go Star-Fated Champion ED) and Student of Caiphon and I have a very utilitarian and useful character that more than pulls his weight.

I think to get the most out of Frigid Darkness and powers like it without extra outside help you really need to be a Student of Caiphon at the very least (MC-Warlord helps too) so that once you hit with it, you can almost guarantee additional attacks and bonuses to hit and/or damage via your Pact Boon and Caiphon's Intercession. Our leader is a Battle Cleric, so I get to play Warlord whenever I want basically plus I still do pretty good damage, have good defenses and a lot of hit points for a non-defender. I'm not seeing where I'm a liability to my party in the slightest. :P

I find the argument over which pre-Essentials leader belongs in the "zeroes" party quite interesting, as every leader except the warlord has been mentioned as a possible candidate, with many caveats that the designated "bad leader" will be the most effective party member anyway. While I am firmly in the Runepriest camp, (although I have seen a couple of pretty bad shamans) it would seem that leaders as a whole are the most balanced and well designed role in the system.


I find the argument over which pre-Essentials leader belongs in the "zeroes" party quite interesting, as every leader except the warlord has been mentioned as a possible candidate, with many caveats that the designated "bad leader" will be the most effective party member anyway. While I am firmly in the Runepriest camp, (although I have seen a couple of pretty bad shamans) it would seem that leaders as a whole are the most balanced and well designed role in the system.




This is true. In fact the disparity between the best leader and the worst leader is much less than the disparity between the best striker and the worst striker.
Then, arguements about best and worst aren't really important when a class (warlord) gets much more support than other leaders (artificer, runepriest, sentinel). 

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

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I find the argument over which pre-Essentials leader belongs in the "zeroes" party quite interesting, as every leader except the warlord has been mentioned as a possible candidate, with many caveats that the designated "bad leader" will be the most effective party member anyway. While I am firmly in the Runepriest camp, (although I have seen a couple of pretty bad shamans) it would seem that leaders as a whole are the most balanced and well designed role in the system.

I think there are those who would nominate the Warlord, but eschew because they would be shouted down.

Leaders are the only class that have a truly common backbone, the X Word mechanic. I think that goes a long way toward explaining their consistency. Then again, the original three strikers had a common mechanic (SA/Quarry/Curse dice) and look how that turned out ... ;)   

I think there are those who would nominate the Warlord, but eschew because they would be shouted down.

Leaders are the only class that have a truly common backbone, the X Word mechanic. I think that goes a long way toward explaining their consistency. Then again, the original three strikers had a common mechanic (SA/Quarry/Curse dice) and look how that turned out ... ;)   




Well, i have that bravery :D 
Warlords are mostly one trick ponies: if something don't stick to the plan, things get really bad. They are by far the worst save enablers, they are usually mediocre healers. This is why my favourite build is resourceful, which isn't really noticed to be the top build otherwise.
That said, people like them because they are mostly good striker buffers (and CO people usually play strikers).
This is only my opinion, biased but experience-based.
 

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

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We probably can't find a pure "zero" leader without looking at the Sentinel, but the premise of the thread rules out Essentials. Thus, we should probably look less at "worst leader" and more at "leader that requires the most optimisation to be effective".

Valour Bard does enough passively that the crappy power selection in Heroic won't hurt it much. Plus, the melee at-wills for Bard are both actually quite good. Cross that one off.

Runepriest, similarly, gives decent bonuses just by standing around in a rune state.

I would make two suggestions:

Wand Artificer would be one. Pick the two ally-targeting at-wills. Don't pick Punishing Eye. Don't pick Healing Figurine. Have poor secondary stats.

The other would be, counterintuitively, a Lazylord. The idea being that an attack-granter is only as good as the person he grants attacks to, and by definition he'll be granting attacks to somebody who isn't optimised enough to do anything good with them.
Warlord can be a not so good leader if the party lacks good basic attacks and warlords a lot of time don't have a strong secondary role.  But since this party will at least have a controller and a striker with a decent to good basic attacks (since the goal is to build optimized versions of weak builds) and since all 4 roles are already covered a warlord would work well.  The biggest thing I would worry about for this particular party is a lack of good defender.

@steelydanfan1 its been the charop consensus for a while that WotC has done the best job on leaders out of any of the roles, esepecially preessentials.  Sentinel is the worst one so far and even it has potential if you OP it and treat it more like a fifth or sixth man than as a primary leader.  Cleric was struggling for a long time to get into its grove, but they just fixed most of its big flaws a few weeks ago.  The biggest problem people like me have with runepriests and aritificers is lack of support, not a problem with the fundamentals of the class.  And even a lot of the relatively weaker builds like runepriest and laser clerics work very well as second leaders in big parties or do a good job filling in secondary roles in parties that lack that roll.
nausicca, the problem is that he plans to optimize to the best of his abilities once he picks the class and build.  Warlords have enough support, and with mark of healing, that any of the builds will work to well for this experiment.
nausicca, the problem is that he plans to optimize to the best of his abilities once he picks the class and build.  Warlords have enough support, and with mark of healing, that any of the builds will work to well for this experiment.



I know, mine was a rant. ^^
Anyway, if you have to go for mark of healing to get an hint of save enabling, you'll have issues. Mark of healing is at best a decent patch, not a miracle. 

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

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What do you intend to eventually do?  Compare them on paper or actually play the two parties out?  How are the builds coming so far?
Mark of Healing is far more than just a patch.  It's an insane, needs-to-be-nerfed-hard feat that completely changes the landscape of save granting in the game.

A warlord could choose powers like Bolstering Shout, and have a minor action mass save grant that's just nuts.  You seem also to be ignoring Shake It Off, available right at level 2 (I think warlords in many games take this a lot, despite LDB not recommending it).  In general, it's far better to grant saves as a minor action, followed by doing something enabling for your standard, and MoH enables this for 4-5 turns of combat, which is plenty.

Also, if you have ever seen Battle Standard of Healing + Mark of Healing in action, you realize save granting powers are completely irrelevant while BS and MH are legal (whenever someone spends a surge, everyone gets a save).  Even with a standard action to drop the standard, having mass saves all fight long just makes save ends effects completely trivial to deal with.
I don't ignore warlord powers, actually. I know decently the list and i think that a lot of its powers are incredibly good, if offensive-focused (but that's not bad).

Mark of healing is a patch because:
1) It's not available in official games
2) It doesn't solve round 1, and it's problematic on round 2 saves

I think it's more than enough to make it situational. Strong, but situational.

Chauntea/Lathander/Torm Cleric since 1995 My husband married a DM - καλὸς καὶ ἀγαθός

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What do you intend to eventually do?  Compare them on paper or actually play the two parties out?  How are the builds coming so far?



If I won the lottery and could quit my job, I'd play out the same encounter with both teams. I'd go first with Team Zeroes, and write down all the d20 rolls for all monsters and characters as they took them. Then I'd play Team Heroes, but instead of rolling d20's, each combatant would use the d20 rolls they made last fight (for monsters) or what the PC in their role made (for PC's), until they ran out. This would mitigate, although not eliminate, noise from dice luck.

I would then run this experiment at levels 3, 6, 9, 13, 16 and 19, using tough encounters from LFR modules, and if I could find some published Epic encounters, I'd use those at levels 23, 26 and 30.

Then I could write up a report about how the two parties performed against each other, to try to get an idea of what the differential is between "good classes" and "bad classes."

Realistically, I'll be honest and say I'll probably never get around to it. If I do, I'll probably be less ambitious, and just test 9, 19 and 30.

I don't ignore warlord powers, actually. I know decently the list and i think that a lot of its powers are incredibly good, if offensive-focused (but that's not bad).

Mark of healing is a patch because:
1) It's not available in official games
2) It doesn't solve round 1, and it's problematic on round 2 saves

I think it's more than enough to make it situational. Strong, but situational.



I've played a number of leader classew in LFR...warlord, cleric (twice), bard, artificer|warlord and ardent. The taclord is my highest.

I've had more than a few answers to save granting over Reyes career. Inspiring War Cry at third level was very helpful. Shake it Off was also a good one. Eventually, I picked up some Gloves of Grace, for a little more save granting.

Two things happened as I started to approach late heroic. First, I picked up Saving Inspiration. Some fights healing throughput was important, but most of the time, blowing an inspiring word on surge plus a save was a good play. The other thing was that the defender I travel with consistantly started getting extremely tough, and rarely needed healing in a fight. So Insipring Word frequently started being used as a save granter.

When Paragon hit, the defender took the Dreadnaught PP, and my need to give her saves dropped to almost nil, and Fight On gave me an extra Inspiring Word, for potentially three granted saves a fight. Soon, Shake it Off lost its luster to Legend Lore, allowing me a lot more versatility in skill challenges, and of course Inspiring War Cry was replaced by much sexier paragon-tier encounter powers. (I love me some Death from Two Sides). The gloves were replaced by better gloves, and at the end of the day I still haven't find myself not needing to grant a save most of the time.


TL:DR - In my experience in Paragon, Fight On plus Saving Inspiration is all the save granting a taclord needs. Traveling with a Dreadnaught with absurd status shrugging probably colors that experience a lot.

EDIT: Just one other note - since this is LFR, no Mark of Healing.
You can still build a very effective lazer cleric if you use the new battle cleric's article so that would probably be the strongest character of the group especially if you went with a radiant vulnerability build.  Combined with a starpact warlock you might have a mini-radiant mafia right there without even really trying.  Maybe use a chaos sorcerer instead?

Part of the issue is that none of the pre essentials leader builds are bad, even though some builds might be a little weaker than others.  The only leader I think is weak is the sentinel.

And swarm druid might be the weakest controller since you have to boost dex or int to keep it alive at higher levels.

Invoker might top orb wizard.



If the cleric goes with a radiant vulnerability build then the Bleak Disciple assassin can go for Covenant Agent for more radiant-mafia.

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Lmao, quit trying to optimize the zeroes!!! Tongue out
Sorry!

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i would have to go with..

Melee striker - rageblood barbarian
ranged striker - archery style Ranger
defender - fighter (weapon talent)
controller - wizard
leader - lazy warlord

just my personal prefrance... 
Lmao, quit trying to optimize the zeroes!!! Tongue out



On a second tought it would be nice to see the different performance of a party of completely unrelated zeroes and a party of zeroes that optimize a concept, like radiant mafia. Call it a 0.5 party.

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