suddenly my swordmage is a tank? help!

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Due to scheduling problems the player playing our goliath fighter cannot play in our game any more. This unfortunately leaves me, the assault swordmage who always paled in comparison to the fighters astonishing defender abilities. Now I have to step up to the plate and try to keep the elven vampire, eladrin wizard (arcanist) master of flame, and dwarf priest (templar) radiant servant alive. So I turn to you oh board of optimizers extrodinare, what can I do to adjust my feats and powers to better suit this role? I know my gm will allow some adjusting in these areas but there's no way he'll let me change anything major like race or paragon path or whatever. 
Oh, and if past experience is any indicator my job will mostly be to keep all the bad guys off the cleric her defenses are terrible but her heals are amazing  

Thanks in advance for whatever help you can provide


====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Zan-Kyri, level 14Genasi, Swordmage, Academy Master
Swordmage Aegis Option: Aegis of Assault
Versatile Expertise Option: Versatile Expertise (Heavy Blade)
Versatile Expertise Option: Versatile Expertise (Axe)
Elemental Manifestation Option: Windsoul
Extra Manifestation Option: Watersoul
Akanûl (Akanûl Benefit) 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES STR 13, CON 19, DEX 14, INT 22, WIS 9, CHA 15 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES STR 12, CON 13, DEX 13, INT 16, WIS 8, CHA 14  
AC: 34 Fort: 25 Ref: 29 Will: 27HP: 112 Surges: 12 Surge Value: 28 
TRAINED SKILLS Arcana +20, Diplomacy +14, Endurance +18, History +18 
UNTRAINED SKILLSAcrobatics +10, Athletics +8, Bluff +9, Dungeoneering +6, Heal +6, Insight +6, Intimidate +9, Nature +8, Perception +6, Religion +13, Stealth +9, Streetwise +9, Thievery +9 
POWERS Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Genasi Racial Power: Windwalker
Swordmage Feature: Aegis of Assault
Genasi Racial Power: Swiftcurrent
Swordmage Attack 1: Sword Burst
Swordmage Attack 1: Booming Blade
Swordmage Attack 1: Foesnare
Swordmage Attack 1: Lashing Asp
Swordmage Utility 2: Channeling Shield
Swordmage Attack 5: Swordmage Shielding Fire
Swordmage Utility 6: Armathor's Step
Swordmage Attack 7: Evoker's Summoning
Swordmage Attack 9: Blade Bolt
Swordmage Utility 10: Impenetrable Warding
Academy Master Attack 11: Learned Boost
Academy Master Utility 12: Refined Recall
Swordmage Attack 13: Binding Light
FEATS
Level 1: Intelligent Blademaster
Level 2: Versatile Expertise
Level 4: Improved Swordmage Warding
Level 6: White Lotus Riposte
Level 8: White Lotus Hindrance
Level 10: Extra Manifestation
Level 11: Superior Will
Level 12: Double Aegis
Level 14: Greater Swordmage Warding
 ITEMSLeather ArmorSnakefang Snakeskin Armor +4 x1Sunblade Khopesh +3 x1Acrobat Boots (heroic tier) x1Gauntlets of Arcane Might (heroic tier) x1Circlet of Second Chances (heroic tier) x1Cloak of Resistance +3 x1Viper Belt (heroic tier) x1CrossbowCrossbow BoltAdventurer's Kit====== End ======
I'm not sure how much you're willing to change, but I believe the traditional way to make a primary defender Swordmage is to go with Aegis of Shielding and the Sigil Carver PP.

Thunderstruck also seems like an effective option, if you want to keep the kiting feel while adding single-target stickiness.
I'd change your encounter powers to the following:
Foesnare -> Dual Lightning Strike(mobility+distributed damage)
Evoker's Summoning -> Dimensional Vortex(i.e. get off my Cleric now and pound your friend instead)
Binding Light -> Hypnotic Swordplay(Stun >> Immobilize)

Right now, your AC is high for a 14th level character. You could get rid of Improved Swordmage Warding for Superior Fortitude - that would lose you +1 to AC, but gain you +2 to Fortitude as well as significant resistance to ongoing damage.

White Lotus Riposte - I'd change that into Silvery Glow(requires worshippping Sehanine or Selune) given your Sunblade - that'll boost the damage of your attacks by +3 each...is there a reason this is a Khopesh? I'd make into a Longsword for the extra +1 to hit with weapon attacks. The reason for getting rid of it is that if you hit someone with an at-will, you're encouraging them to not attack you back, which is apparently a problem. You want them to attack you so they don't attack the cleric. Overall, you'll get the same damage that you normally do, as you'll make encounter/daily/mba attacks which don't benefit from Riposte anyway.
If you are able to take Dragonmarks, get mark of warding so that your mark is now a -3 to attacks that aren't you.  Also, get a githyanki silver weapon and take psychic lock.  If you hit against your mark, it will have a -5 to any attacks not directed toward your pc and will have a -2 if respecting the mark.  It's not going to be like you are going to quite lockdown the enemies as well as a fighter, but you will put them in a nice catch-22 that is hard to ignore.

You should also boost your damage output so that your mark fears your melee basic as much as the decrease in accuracy.  The obvious ways to do that are weapon focus and iron armbands of power.

Not directly related to being a defender, but at the level you are at a longsword is way better than a khopesh.  Brutal 1 on a d8 is nothing compared to a +1 to attack.
Assaulting swordmages really suck at tanking (I've tried it, it doesn't work well).  Since your character wasn't built for it, ask if your DM if you can change to the aegis of shielding and take either sigil carver or that other aegis of shielding paragon path, and you should pretty much be fine.
OP already said his DM will never let him switch the paragon path.
Assualy Swordmages can be fine defenders if you just pay a little extra care to power selection. Here's the list I've used extensively up to your level you don't have listed:


At-Will: Frigid Blade (slows enemy Con Mod)

Utility 2: Dimensional Warp (they surround your ally? Now they're surrounding you)


Encounter 3: Dimensional Vortex & Eencounter 13: Hypnotic Swordplay (as MwaO said)

...and yeah, dump the White Lotus feats. Don't give them less incentive to hit you besides defenses.       
Tell the person playing the cleric to stop being tactically bad (in different words of course).  Don't try and replace the fighter, fighters are bad defenders, you need to do what Swordmages do, which is mark 1 target, stand infront of another and encourage it to stay there.  Make sure your DM scales down the encounters to be appropriate for 4 people instead of 5.

Frigid Blade compared to Booming Blade is a terrible idea
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.
Thanks for all the replies, I'll definately be adjusting my feats, powers and wish list. Alas I don't have access to dragonmarks and can't change to a shielding swordmage but even with these limitations I think I'll be able to do a pretty good job now. 
Feel free to keep any new ideas coming but I'm already kind of excited for my new role in the party.  
I know OP said his had a rule saying no changing the paragon path, but I'd think that might change if you lose a character and need to change another character to fit it.  

Tell the person playing the cleric to stop being tactically bad (in different words of course).  Don't try and replace the fighter, fighters are bad defenders, you need to do what Swordmages do, which is mark 1 target, stand infront of another and encourage it to stay there.  Make sure your DM scales down the encounters to be appropriate for 4 people instead of 5.

Frigid Blade compared to Booming Blade is a terrible idea


Fighters are bad defenders?!?
Wtf are you smoking? 
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I had typed a longer response, but then firefox crashed.

I get that response a lot, Fighters are low-op Defenders (ie. it doesn't take much work to get just about all you can out of them, because there isn't much) until Epic, and then you have the feats to stack on a bunch of cheese to their MBAs (and everyone gets Epic cheese).  The problem is, that doesn't change them from being zone defenders, and once you get out of their "zone", you can just ignore them (except for a couple builds), whereas Battlemind, Paladin, and Swordmage continue to be effective no matter where you go on the battlefield.

Fighters are a striker with "marked" as their Striker Mechanic.
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.
I had typed a longer response, but then firefox crashed.

I get that response a lot, Fighters are low-op Defenders (ie. it doesn't take much work to get just about all you can out of them, because there isn't much) until Epic, and then you have the feats to stack on a bunch of cheese to their MBAs (and everyone gets Epic cheese).  The problem is, that doesn't change them from being zone defenders, and once you get out of their "zone", you can just ignore them (except for a couple builds), whereas Battlemind, Paladin, and Swordmage continue to be effective no matter where you go on the battlefield.

Fighters are a striker with "marked" as their Striker Mechanic.



I literally could not disagree more with this.

It's true that fighters can't punish at range.  They don't need to, because no marked enemy ever leaves melee (assuming your fighter is properly built).
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
A Fighter can be a striker with "marked" as their Striker Mechanic.


Fixed that for you. Zone defending is not inherently worse than what the Swordmage and the Paladin do with their mark- Fighters who defend invest in ways to keep enemies in the zone. They pick up Feyslaughter weapons instead of plying Permafrost with a Frost Weapon like a Striker.
I had typed a longer response, but then firefox crashed.

I get that response a lot, Fighters are low-op Defenders (ie. it doesn't take much work to get just about all you can out of them, because there isn't much) until Epic, and then you have the feats to stack on a bunch of cheese to their MBAs (and everyone gets Epic cheese).  The problem is, that doesn't change them from being zone defenders, and once you get out of their "zone", you can just ignore them (except for a couple builds), whereas Battlemind, Paladin, and Swordmage continue to be effective no matter where you go on the battlefield.

Fighters are a striker with "marked" as their Striker Mechanic.



I literally could not disagree more with this.

It's true that fighters can't punish at range.  They don't need to, because no marked enemy ever leaves melee (assuming your fighter is properly built).


I find myself incapable of responding to this without being insulting.  You're just wrong.  Zone defense works in football and when you're DM is a mouth breather (which, amusingly, is why it works in football)
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.

I find myself incapable of responding to this without being insulting.  You're just wrong.  Zone defense works in football and when you're DM is a mouth breather (which, amusingly, is why it works in football)



To be honest, I had the same problem in writing my original post, because I know you're experienced with 4E and I can't imagine why you would think something that's so clearly wrong.

Therefore, I will simply direct you to the fighter handbook, which you can peruse at your convenience.  If you have a place where you've written out a similar treatise on your opinion, feel free to direct me to it, and I'll read it.  Otherwise, we can just walk away and agree to disagree.
The difference between madness and genius is determined only by degrees of success.
Zone defense works in football and when you're DM is a mouth breather (which, amusingly, is why it works in football)



You've obviously never schemed a defense (or an offense) in football.  
I find myself incapable of responding to this without being insulting.  You're just wrong.  Zone defense works in football and when you're DM is a mouth breather (which, amusingly, is why it works in football)



Fighters do have the issue that when the opponents are significantly spread out, they can engage a single opponent who then chooses to attack them - they can't then force other opponents to think about who they're going to attack.

That's an inherent weakness of their mark compared to the other Defenders. On the other hand, encounter design gets kind of boring if you do that - Team Monster consists of mostly ranged attackers in every encounter which means Cloak of Distortion's value skyrockets. And also defenses against area attacks.

i.e. in order to cripple a Fighter's mark, that means you simultaneously need to be metagaming against them in encounter design and not allowing them to find the items that defeat your strategy. That usually doesn't work out so well from a keeping the campaign going PoV...
I'd change your encounter powers to the following:
Foesnare -> Dual Lightning Strike(mobility+distributed damage)
Evoker's Summoning -> Dimensional Vortex(i.e. get off my Cleric now and pound your friend instead)
Binding Light -> Hypnotic Swordplay(Stun >> Immobilize)

Right now, your AC is high for a 14th level character. You could get rid of Improved Swordmage Warding for Superior Fortitude - that would lose you +1 to AC, but gain you +2 to Fortitude as well as significant resistance to ongoing damage.

White Lotus Riposte - I'd change that into Silvery Glow(requires worshippping Sehanine or Selune) given your Sunblade - that'll boost the damage of your attacks by +3 each...is there a reason this is a Khopesh? I'd make into a Longsword for the extra +1 to hit with weapon attacks. The reason for getting rid of it is that if you hit someone with an at-will, you're encouraging them to not attack you back, which is apparently a problem. You want them to attack you so they don't attack the cleric. Overall, you'll get the same damage that you normally do, as you'll make encounter/daily/mba attacks which don't benefit from Riposte anyway.


I second going back to a longsword so you can pick up Rose King's Shield and get rid of White Lotus Hinderance. It gives you a small buffer everytime you hit with Booming Blade or a large one when you first walk up to something.
I find myself incapable of responding to this without being insulting.  You're just wrong.  Zone defense works in football and when you're DM is a mouth breather (which, amusingly, is why it works in football)



Fighters do have the issue that when the opponents are significantly spread out, they can engage a single opponent who then chooses to attack them - they can't then force other opponents to think about who they're going to attack.

That's an inherent weakness of their mark compared to the other Defenders. On the other hand, encounter design gets kind of boring if you do that - Team Monster consists of mostly ranged attackers in every encounter which means Cloak of Distortion's value skyrockets. And also defenses against area attacks.

i.e. in order to cripple a Fighter's mark, that means you simultaneously need to be metagaming against them in encounter design and not allowing them to find the items that defeat your strategy. That usually doesn't work out so well from a keeping the campaign going PoV...


Having a creature with high defenses, mark enforcement, and a MBA that Dazes or Immobilizes counts as metagaming against fighters?  How about minior action burst 1 vs ref that pushes 1 and prones?  Having a Vampire?  I'm aware that all of that stuff works on other defenders, fighters are just more vulnerable than "most defenders" (ie. 3/5 defender classes), and except for that last 1, Fighters are defeated by monsters that use their same tactics, which are significantly more common than monsters that are similar to any other class except ranger and wizard; and there's sufficient design space to include monsters that tie up Fighters (for a round or 2) in every fight without it being boring.

I would go as far to say that the reverse is true, designing encounters that showcase the strengths of the fighter are extremely boring, though I can certainly see, given the average mentality on these forums, how people would think otherwise - ground and pound tends to showcase damage/healing and downplay control/tactics.

I'm quite familiar with the fighter handbook, and it's true that fighters have options to get around their weaknesses, but usually only temporarily and once per day; but combats don't exist in a vacuum, you will find yourself at the bottom of a 40' wall, or fighting enemies in a "PCs can't teleport" zone, or stuck inside a burst 5 zone that immobilizes (save ends) when you start your turn in it.

I can't help but laugh when people complain about flying artillery, multi-attacking elite skirmishers, multi-dominators, or immobilizing zones because the fight was unfair ... to their fighter.  In 3.x that kind of complaint would be laughed at by more than just me, if I can say one bad thing about 4e it's that it's allowed specialization to occur in such a degree that forcing players outside of their niche is a grave insult and "Get a new DM" worthy.

Don't get me wrong, Fighters are a good class, they are just bad at preventing their allies from getting hit in the earlier rounds of combat, and that is why I say they are bad defenders.

@Gunthar: I'm well aware of football tactics, I'm also aware that all NFL players must take a test where even the people writing the answers get simple division wrong and only 1 position of players averages a "passing grade" (by most people's standards) of over 50%.  For people that supposedly went to college, that's pretty bad.  Professional Sports tactics are a catch 22, those intelligent enough to understand the best plays are generally physically incapable of pulling them off (not always true, just based on statistics)

This is enough derailing by me though, I'll type something up when I'm at gencon (yeah right, like I'll have time for that ...)
"Invokers are probably better round after round but Wizard dailies are devastating. Actually, devastating is too light a word. Wizard daily powers are soul crushing, encounter ending, havoc causing pieces of awesome." -AirPower25 Sear the Flesh, Purify the Soul; Harden the Heart, and Improve the Mind; Born of Blood, but Forged by Fire; The MECH warrior reaches perfection.
Zathris, a couple things.

 For the whole football references who cares if players can't do long division- how the heck does that impact their ability to do their position? It does not. ie the point he was making is the famed "zone defense" that you are endorsing really is used in football a lot and most of the plays by the offense are designed to break that kind of a formation. Here's the big shocker that I'll let you in on: Football players do not come up with the plays at all they have coaches or other "staff" do so and they just run them as designed.

 Then the whole ftr is a crappy defender...um welll maybe you should just put the bowl down before responding so quickly. In all your prior examples no defender(well except possibly a warden), can really do their job when they are dominated, immobilized, or facing flyers from 40' away. Out of nearly all of these a ftr can at least mark at that range. Yeah this does just give the -2 penalty and no other real enforcement in these extraneous cases.

 In normal circumstances ie like the 80% you encounter the ftr does fine in locking down one or more opponents. As shifting is derailed around them then is makes a large number of the multiattackers, who depend on shifts to get to the next opponent, less effective. Most of the ftr builds out there effectively shut one or two attackers down. Unluckily like most defenders this is normally only melee combatants with a little overflow into those shifting baddies.

  As well with any kind of blocking terrain he can effectively prevent anyone from getting by. With many of his encounters he has some controller aspects in pulling enemies to him, where this can then be used by others to concentrate fire with burst or blasts.

 Just like most other defenders artilery and controllers are hard to pin down by any defender.
Hi there Mom! (EDIT: That means you MwaO...) Nice to be back here after a long exile in RL and still see some familiar faces... ehh... I mean avatars...

I'm not totally up to speed on the current rules yet, but anyways:

@fl8m: I agree with MwaO's advice, go for powers that reposition you/enemies/your cleric to keep her out of harm and you an immediate threat to the enemies trying to get to her (or other allies when needed).

IME, swordmages are a bit similar to wizards in that their choice of powers and especially how they're played in combat have a greater effect on their performance than other classes. I think there's a higher risk your SM will suck bigtime at the defender job - in comparison to say the typical sword'n'board fighter - if you choose powers without understanding their key strengths and how to use them for best effect, while your SM can also be a truly awesome defender (even as an assaultmage) if built and played with a little extra care.

@Zathris: (Some derailment here, sorry...) Your view on fighters got me curious and I have a few questions about what you wrote:
I get that response a lot, Fighters are low-op Defenders (ie. it doesn't take much work to get just about all you can out of them, because there isn't much) until Epic, and then you have the feats to stack on a bunch of cheese to their MBAs (and everyone gets Epic cheese).

I think there's quite a few very different "archetype" fighter builds, ranging from, for example, the in-your-face grappler or classic sword'n'boarder to the striker-ish tempests or the controller-ish reach specialist. And I think both their defender performance as well as the amount of work required to "get just about all you can out of them" vary greatly, in addition to having different preferred combat styles that clearly affects how real game encounters plays out. At least from early paragon levels and upwards.

So I somewhat understand (I think) what you say about the fighter's defender performance when it comes to say a damage-oriented off-tank dual-wielder or great-weapon fighter. Or perhaps if only discussing defender performance on big open battlefields and/or vs. monsters of +4 levels or more.
Was it those build types and/or conditions you thought of primarily?

In all other cases, I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean. IMO, for example an optimized shield or reach fighter is a frighteningly effective defender (at least in the hands of a reasonably competent player). What differences do you think there are between your game and my game that make these fighters so much more effective in my game? 

The problem is, that doesn't change them from being zone defenders, and once you get out of their "zone", you can just ignore them (except for a couple builds), whereas Battlemind, Paladin, and Swordmage continue to be effective no matter where you go on the battlefield.

Fighters are a striker with "marked" as their Striker Mechanic.

I believe the fighter that frequently have monsters escaping or never entering the "zone" in my game is any or all of the following alternatives:


  • Poorly built for the defender job in general, for example by prioritizing damage before stickiness or close combat control.

  • Somehow completely missing "come hether" pull-powers and/or burst mass marking to draw monsters into the zone

  • Lacking a sufficiently punishing CC attack - i.e. an accurate attack with direct debilitating/action-denial effects that seriously disrupts or completely voids the marked monster's triggering attack (and to a smaller extent/for a few opponents also has a high average damage).

  • Having unbalanced defenses vs. mark strength

  • Usually fighting monsters on big open battlefields and/or intelligent monsters of a much higher level (= high defenses = less mark strength)

  • Usually fighting monsters with special movement modes allowing escape (teleportation) and strangely not having invested in ways to cancel such movement

  • Very poorly played (in terms of combat tactics)


Or in other words, I believe a fighter that uses CC as a striker mechanic is not a defender primarily (naturally), and also very poorly built/played if that were the intended role.

What of the above, if any, do you disagree with and why?

Or have there been some major changes to the fighter during the last year that I've missed? (I haven't read up on everything yet.) 



Sidenote: although I've built and played several defenders, incl. quite a few fighters, most of my experience comes from playing a striker-ish straladin. I'm also used to a playstyle with less frequent but considerably more dangerous combat encounters than the "standard game" has (official adventures and DM recommendations). Not that I think it matters much in this case, but who knows?



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@Gunthar: I'm well aware of football tactics, I'm also aware that all NFL players must take a test where even the people writing the answers get simple division wrong and only 1 position of players averages a "passing grade" (by most people's standards) of over 50%.  For people that supposedly went to college, that's pretty bad.  Professional Sports tactics are a catch 22, those intelligent enough to understand the best plays are generally physically incapable of pulling them off (not always true, just based on statistics)



The Wonderlic is a timed test to measure the speed of processing information. The questions themselves aren't really hard, they're worded differently to play "gotcha". Most people never finish the test in the alloted time and different positions have different "requirements", sometimes even based on scheme (Vertical system receivers can score single digits while WCO receivers needed to process faster, for example).

Zone vs. Man is not based on "smarts" it's based on personel. If you have the speed and athleticism, you can match up man-to-man, while if you have size and aren't as fast you play zone. Zone players generally do have to read more keys than man defenders, yes, but all of this is just in pass coverage. Attacking either is just as easy or hard, the strategies are just a bit different.  

Back on topic: I can agree that Fighers are more "zone defenders" but then they have a suite of powers avaiable that enhances that. They work well and I like that all the Defenders can do their job differently than the others. I prefer ranged marking abilities and not having to engage marks myself but the action economy of auto-marking is a fine feature too.