Swordmage/Artificier Opinions/Assistance please

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Starting at L3


Int-18(20 human) Con-14 Cha-dump


Aegis of Ensnarement


Feats
L1 Hybrid Talent Swordmage Warding
    White Lotus Defence
L2 Inteligent Blademaster


Powers
L1 AW Thundering Armour (Art)
           Luring Strike     (SM)
           Sword Burst   (SM)
    En    Scouring Weapon   (Art)
    D     Icebound Sigil    (Art) 
L2 Ut    Host of Shields   (SM)
L3 En    Unseen Gauntlet   (SM)


Leather Armour
Broadsword

The plan is to work as a frontline defender holding as many nasties as possible in a tight knot around me as possible whilst the rest of the party bully a target until it drops, then release another for the party to work on. Rinse and repeat.

The main problem (other than getting all the enemies into CC with me) is keeping them in CC.
I've taken Luring Strike to allow me to drag one of my way ward sheep back, but that's only one.
The Broadsword/Icebound Sigil/Intelligent Blademaster combo makes for a reasonable OA damage (ave 12.5) and with a +8 to the roll it's likely to hit.
At L4 I intend to take Versatile expertise, meaning my attack roll will be +10 to hit with OA.
I'm just a little concerned that when/if I manage to get the majority of nasties in close, they'll all just shift away and all they'll have lost is a turn attacking the more vulnerable members of the party.

Any suggestions as to how to get around this little dilema?          

   

If you are the only defender, ask yourself what is it that Artificer is really doing for you.  You appear to be trying to be an uber sticky defender, but you've gone and weakened yourself despite wanting to be 'the front line'.  At a guess - you are using artificer as a way to 'buff your damage' right?  Well - again, if you are trying to be a defender, worrying about being a striker is not always a grand idea.  basically - I am just not seeing this idea working out right.

Longsword is better than broadsword - the difference in d8 v d10 on your OAs is less than the difference between +3 to hit and +2 to hit.  having +8 to hit isnt 'very likely to hit' it is 'about what you should have at level 3'.

In general - ensnaring is just a poor choice for swordmages - so you've really got your work cut out for you.

At these levels, there is not a great deal you can do to stop enemies simply shifting and charging your allies - until you can get some 'cute' effects like from things like the Grasping Roots or World Serpents Grasp feats, or other tricks that can let you slow, immobilise, or knockdown enemies.  Of course - getting those effects to work for you is the big challenge.


From my experience, a Swordmage|Artificer hybrid works far better as an 'abjurist' caster.  Let someone else be the front line, you then buff the front line, and blunt the enemies with your powers.  What I see here is a character that has weakened his HP and surge values, yet who is trying to have the enemies focus fire on him.


So - err - I've actually not any idea how to make your concept work as is.  Now if you were a Warden - you'd be on the right track I think.
Thanks for the input.

Yes, "uber-sticky" is exactly the term I'd use to describe the play style I'm looking for. 

I had looked at the Warden, and really liked it, but I love the fluff of both the Swormage and the Artificier, and they seemed to work well together, especially with the shared primary and secondary stat. 

The party also has a Fighter, (defender secondary as a striker, and not overly great at either as he's over ramped his Dex for AC as he went for Hide (don't know why, perhaps for INIT), so rarely hits with Combat Challenge as his strength isn't good enough, +6 at L5(hence me thinking +8 was quite reasonable, I'm a relative noob, this is the second character I've built to actually play with))
A Swordmage/Wizard - Aegis of Shielding
A Warlock focusing on damage
A Shaman focusing on damage with a bit of healing   

What drew me to the Artificier was the slight healing abilities (the shaman player only just joined, has't even played yet), and the ability to buff my AC and allies should it be needed (though by what you're saying I'll need to focus that on myself?). I know I'm never going to come anywhere near striker damage. My other character was a ranger, who even at L1 was putting out more damage than I will at L3.

I can't really see how the Artificier ups the damage, granted the Icebound Sigil gives a tad more and and extra element type with the hope of having more chance of hitting a vulnerability.
Combining that with the broadsword was intended to make simply walking away from me something to worry about as the OA was not insubstaicial, ave 12.5 with cold element (or is that not as OK as I thought it was either?) 

With Swordburst and White Lotus I'll be AC 22 at L3 (is that respectable? I thought so, but again I'm using my groups stats as a benchmark), so the plan was to weather the attacks, and hopefully not get hit that often (also Auspicious Birth background means at L3 Hp are 43)

I was going to take Mark of Warding at L6 to up defences again, but would that be better taken at L4, swap broadsword for longsword and take Versatile Expertise at L6.

Does this change your opinion, or does it still seem an unplayable character to you?

I realise I may seem I'm arguing the point, but I'm just trying to get the thought process across so you can (hopefully) point out where I'm falling down in my build process (I meant it when I said thanks, as a noob I need people to tell me my ideas are simply not tenable and why). Am I trying to be too tricksy and falling down for it?
Knowing your party's make up does certainly help - I am a big believer in making your character an asset to your group - rather than in isolation.  Interestingly - you've got 3 characters out of 5 who have at least some defender in them - I wonder if your party really needs a dedicated uber-tank defender, or if it just needs to work out how to spread the defence you do have to create a solid wall.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a Swordmage|Artificer - in fact they are a great party asset - but it is ill-suited to be the 'everyone attack me' character focus that you've aimed for.

Your AC of 22 is great - but swordmages are usually sitting pretty with a good AC.  I'd be more worried about your FORT and WILL defences, although at level 3 you shouldnt feel the sting of nasty stuns/pushes/dominations just yet.  As a general rule - for a defender I like to shoot for 18+ level in AC, 14+level in non armour defences (although it is difficult to keep all 3 NADs there) so you've done great on the AC.

Artificer is a buffing character - the wonderful at will Magic Weapon will make your party hit hard and often.  Your ice sigil is unfortunately a daily power - in my games it is not uncommon for the party to need to clear 5-6 encounters before getting an extended rest - so you cant count on it for much of your fighting time.  Even so - you are on the right track in making sure your OA is as stong as you can make it.  Still - options that cause status effects like slow, immobilise, or other cool effects are going to be more useful to you than just having high damage.

Your HP are fine for now, but your healing surges are low - you've made a character that will get hit a lot, but you'll be drained of healing surges after a few fights.  Being able to use one 'surgeless' heal per fight as an artificer (recharging it with someone else's surge) is definitely a good idea though.

I am a bit worried about your fighter.  At level 1, a fighter with 18 STR, no special feats, no applicable weapon talent and a longsword has +7 to hit (and +8 at level 3 assuming no other improvements like magical weapons or expertise feats).  You are saying that at level 5 he has +6?  OMG!  A 'good' fighter would have +4 from STR, +3 from weapon, +1 from talent, +1 from feat, +2 from levels = +11 at 5th level, as a more or less minimum!

As a rule of thumb - 5+level for weapon attacks is OK, 6+level is better.  3+level for non-weapon attacks.

Anyway - it is far from an 'unplayable' character, but it isn't really going to do the ultra sticky tank em all role well.  What it could do really well is: pull one enemy in close and tie it up, while handing out cheap and effective bonuses to all your closest allies.

Because you like the fluff with swordmages and artificers - I'd suggest sticking with it, but just modifiying what you expect to achieve with it to more closely align with your strengths.  also try to help your fighter re-think his character :P
WOW, thanks for that detailed analysis. Definately a lot to take on board.
Much appreciated. 



I am a bit worried about your fighter.  At level 1, a fighter with 18 STR, no special feats, no applicable weapon talent and a longsword has +7 to hit (and +8 at level 3 assuming no other improvements like magical weapons or expertise feats).  You are saying that at level 5 he has +6?  OMG!  A 'good' fighter would have +4 from STR, +3 from weapon, +1 from talent, +1 from feat, +2 from levels = +11 at 5th level, as a more or less minimum!

Because you like the fluff with swordmages and artificers - I'd suggest sticking with it, but just modifiying what you expect to achieve with it to more closely align with your strengths.  also try to help your fighter re-think his character :P



I actually got that wrong, I meant to type +7 (but that's wrong anyway as I forgot his Battleaxe is +1)
So it's +8 = +3 STR, +2 Prof, +2 LVL, +1 MW, his feats are aimed at init boosting and tricks, not to hit. He has improved init and quick draw, and I think one that ups his damage.

As far as getting him to change it...
You'd have more luck convincing a star to go out...
Hey, just saw you sent me a PM looking for advice about a week ago.  Sorry about the delay!  My new Play-by-post game has me mostly off the forums, since I have a different D&D-related bookmark to waste internet time on. :P

As to your build... ask yourself what Ensnaring does that Shielding can't do.  Note that if you're a Shieldmage, Transposing Lunge gives you, essentially, a souped-up Ensnarement effect once per encounter, and at level 7, Dimensional Thunder can give you another one.  Functionally, all ensnarement does is wait for the monster to hit your friend, then put him back next to you and wag your finger at him.  But if he got away from you successfully one turn to go hit someone else, chances are he can do it again just as well the next time.  Shielding will actually reduce the damage your group takes and encourage the monster to chase you down--that's the kind of stickiness that's much more valuable.  In practice, it does way, way more than ensnaring will ever get you, and can mimic the effect of the ensnarement any time you really need that.

For your artificer at will, there are two great choices, and you skipped both of them: Magic Weapon and Static Shock.  Magic Weapon is a sizable buff to your melee allies (although it can also be used at range if you're willing to use a Drow Long Knife, or draw and toss a dagger on occasion, and it's easy to buff ranged allies that way, too), and Static Shock, while ranged, reduces the damage your allies take.  In a defender-heavy party like yours, I'd lean toward Magic Weapon.  For your level 2 utility, it might be good to have either something healing-focused from the artificer list (it sounds like your party is pretty sturdy but low on healing), or channeling shield (I think? can't remember the name), an encounter interrupt to basically get your aegis effect on an unmarked enemy.  As you level, you'll probably see lots of your swordmage activity going into your immediate actions, since that's where swordmages can really shine, while you use artificer spells on your turn to buff your friends or shore up control.

I agree with Aranador about weapon choice--always take the +3 proficiency bonus, since you're a leader/defender whose mark punishment doesn't rely on [W]'s.  Longsword will serve you well, and don't forget that switching from one-hand grip to two-hand grip is a free action, so you can always get the +1 versatile bonus when you attack with it on your turn, and then leave a hand free at all other times to keep your +3 warding. 
Knowing your party's make up does certainly help - I am a big believer in making your character an asset to your group - rather than in isolation.  Interestingly - you've got 3 characters out of 5 who have at least some defender in them - I wonder if your party really needs a dedicated uber-tank defender, or if it just needs to work out how to spread the defence you do have to create a solid wall.



I'm the Swordmage|Wizard in the party, using my Aegis and Illusionary Ambush to make it really hard for someone to hit my allies. I picked up Channeling Shield and Dimensional Vortex as a Swordmage, and really do plan on spending most fights near the back (in a big open area I'd stand somewhere between the mobs and the shaman, so if anyone comes for the Shaman/Warlock I can hit them with Booming Blade which I have buffed with Rose Kings Shield)

Even though I'm a defender and the fighter is in theory, the Swordmage|Artificier fills the main tank roll better than either of us.

With the Shaman healing (He has a healing daily, and the basic Shaman healing mechanic only I think) and me preventing damage his Swordmage should hopefully stay up quite well. And i'd imagine the Ensnaring is to help keep mobs near him, even if they can get out of melee and attack someone else every single turn, they're taking the -2 to attack, and the important bit is that the turn after that they're not running *further* through us.

I'm not sure, but I think he went Artificier mostly to give himself an extra +1 AC with Thundering Armour
WOW, thanks for that detailed analysis. Definately a lot to take on board.
Much appreciated. 



I am a bit worried about your fighter.  At level 1, a fighter with 18 STR, no special feats, no applicable weapon talent and a longsword has +7 to hit (and +8 at level 3 assuming no other improvements like magical weapons or expertise feats).  You are saying that at level 5 he has +6?  OMG!  A 'good' fighter would have +4 from STR, +3 from weapon, +1 from talent, +1 from feat, +2 from levels = +11 at 5th level, as a more or less minimum!

Because you like the fluff with swordmages and artificers - I'd suggest sticking with it, but just modifiying what you expect to achieve with it to more closely align with your strengths.  also try to help your fighter re-think his character :P



I actually got that wrong, I meant to type +7 (but that's wrong anyway as I forgot his Battleaxe is +1)
So it's +8 = +3 STR, +2 Prof, +2 LVL, +1 MW, his feats are aimed at init boosting and tricks, not to hit. He has improved init and quick draw, and I think one that ups his damage.

As far as getting him to change it...
You'd have more luck convincing a star to go out...



Just to correct this, his STR is only +2, he went for 14 Str, 18 Dex, a bunch of Con, and a bit of Wis (11/12), so at level 5 he's on +7.

In other words - he should be playing a slayer.  Oh well - you'll just have to work around him.
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