Basic attacks focus in a lightning elementalist (sorcerer)

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I'm building a sorcerer elementalist.  I like the focus on very few attack powers (they're all at-wills), and a few encounter powers to boost their strength.  That simplifies the character a lot in combat without throwing power out the window, and it leaves more mental focus for strategy, roleplay, cleverness, etc both in and out of combat.

However, I'm trying to figure out just how much I should focus on milking those at-wills.  My first impulse was to gobble up lots of white lotus feats, plus a few thunder perks for kicks.  However, as the build took shape I started to wonder if that's a bit of a trap.  Maybe I should be focusing instead on static boosts to defenses (ala Superior Will) before worrying about Solid Sound, for example.

I chose half-elf for roleplay reasons.  I imagine the character could be notably better with, say, Dragonborn, Teifling, or another Con+Cha race, and I'd be interested in discussing what I'm missing.  I'm not doing any versatile master cheese or any other half-elf only trickery, so the race may be wasted in this context; but the build was designed around the roleplay character and that's sometimes what happens.  ;)

Note that this is a low-magic-item campaign, so I just have basic equipment.  Also it appears the character builder will not let me equip my accurate staff - how kind of it.

build
====== Created Using Wizards of the Coast D&D Character Builder ======
Guildenstern, level 30
Half-Elf, Sorcerer (Elementalist), Elemental Savant, Demigod
Elemental Specialty Option: Air Elementalist
Air Elementalist Option: Thunder
Arcane Admixture Damage Type: Arcane Admixture Thunder
Divine Spark Option: Divine Spark Charisma
Divine Spark Option: Divine Spark Constitution
Half-Elf Power Selection Option: Knack for Success
Inherent Bonuses
Disgraced Noble (+2 to Diplomacy)
 
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 10, CON 28, DEX 13, INT 15, WIS 12, CHA 28
 
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 8, CON 16, DEX 11, INT 13, WIS 10, CHA 16
 
 
AC: 43 Fort: 40 Ref: 34 Will: 46
HP: 185 Surges: 15 Surge Value: 46
 
TRAINED SKILLS
Arcana +22, Bluff +29, Diplomacy +33, Insight +23
 
UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +16, Athletics +15, Dungeoneering +16, Endurance +24, Heal +16, History +17, Intimidate +24, Nature +16, Perception +16, Religion +17, Stealth +16, Streetwise +24, Thievery +16
 
POWERS
Basic Attack: Melee Basic Attack
Basic Attack: Ranged Basic Attack
Half-Elf Racial Power: Knack for Success
Sorcerer Attack: Elemental Bolt
Sorcerer Attack: Static Charge
Sorcerer Attack: Howling Zephyr
Sorcerer Attack: Elemental Escalation (Air)
Sorcerer Attack 1: Dragonfrost
Sorcerer Attack 1: Acid Orb
Sorcerer Utility 2: Spatial Trip
Sorcerer Utility 6: Swift Escape
Sorcerer Utility 10: Maiden's Waking
Elemental Savant Utility 12: Elemental Form
Insight Utility 16: Insightful Riposte
Sorcerer Utility 16: Chaos Echoes
Demigod Utility 26: Divine Regeneration
 
FEATS
Level 1: Staff Expertise
Level 2: Unarmored Agility
Level 4: Superior Implement Training (Accurate staff)
Level 6: Hafted Defense
Level 8: White Lotus Enervation
Level 10: Arcane Spellfury
Level 11: Resounding Thunder
Level 12: Arcane Admixture
Level 14: Solid Sound
Level 16: Oncoming Storm
Level 18: White Lotus Defense
Level 20: White Lotus Evasion
Level 21: Sorcerous Flux
Level 22: Quickened Spellcasting
Level 24: Superior Will
Level 26: Long Step
Level 28: Explosive Spellcasting
Level 30: Ruthless Spellfury
 
ITEMS
Accurate staff
Cloth Armor (Basic Clothing) x1
Adventurer's Kit
Staff Implement x1
====== End ======


Heroic:
I start by picking the close burst power Howling Zephyr.  Perhaps Static Charge would be better, since it can be easier to position a blast than a burst, and because hitting a group can allow me to stack the extra damage on one enemy.  My feats focus around accuracy and some defenses (primarily AC).

By mid to late heroic I have picked up the second at-will, and I start picking up conditional bonuses.  Arcane Spellfury increases my attack rolls for targeting the same enemies over and over, but first I grab White Lotus Enveneration because it benefits the whole party by penalizing the enemy's targeted defense.

My utilities let me teleport as a move, teleport to avoid an area of effect attack, and shrug off nasty status effects (briefly).

Paragon:
My feats focus on boosting thunder attacks, which are my primary focus.  I use resounding thunder to widen their area, and arcane admixture to make my second at-will gain the thunder keyword & daamge type as well, to enjoy the added radius.

However, solid sound and oncoming storm seem out of place, as their conditional bonuses probably pale in comparison with static bonuses such as Superior Will.  Solid Sound is decent because it can change its bonus with each encounter (or each attack) as the situation calls for protecting different defenses, but oncoming storm is probably not helping much (only really applies to Static Charge, though I'll be using that power a lot).  Likewise, White Lotus Defense only affects enemies I've hit with powers since last turn, so the +1 it offers may not compete with static bonuses I could acquire instead.

However, I do like White Lotus Evasion, especially in combination with Long Step later in Epic.  This makes me very mobile in combat.

My powers were mostly already set in heroic.  I choose Acid Orb and Dragonfrost as my bonus at-wills because they are basic attacks, and that can be occasionally useful with a leader ally or with Ruthless Spellfury (though that's a long way off and rarely triggers).  In retrospect, Dragonfrost is probably the most useful one thanks to the push (though acid can be a useful damage type).  I should probably replace one or both of these...

The utility power might let me dodge a hit.

Elemental Savant gives another +1 to attack rolls, another at-will, sharing resistances with friends, and a saving throw bonus that is very welcome.  It also offers just one power, a daily utility that can be used twice at level 16.  This path seemed perfectly in line with my goals in this build.

Epic:
In line with the focus on accuracy, Sorcerous Flux lets me swap around attack rolls so I can make sure I'm hitting the targets I want dead.  Given that my two primary attacks are multi-targeting, I really like the idea of regularly being able to fudge the attack rolls to favor smearing the most threatening target.

I chose Howling Zephyr for Quickened Spellcasting because it allows me to reposition my targets for a followup with Static Charge.  This combos well with any conditional on-hit bonuses I get, including White Lotus Evasion + Long Step which let me shift into an optimal position if I have a spare minor action.

Explosive Spellcasting and Ruthless Spellfury seem grossly out of place.  Because of my stats, I'll never be able to take the feat to crit on a 19-20.  Spending 2 feats on critical hits when I'm operating at half the crit threshold doesn't seem optimal.

-

I would guess that I need to replace white lotus defense, oncoming storm and solid sound first.  Superior Will and Superior Fortitude come to mind, and should possibly be taken in mid or early heroic.  Later on I'd like to take Superior Reflexes and possibly stack on the Epic Fort/Ref/Will feats too.  Removing explosive spellcasting and ruthless spellfury should clear ample room for this.

What about White Lotus Enveneration and Arcane Spellfury though?  So long as I keep hitting, I get to keep up a +2 to my attack rolls against those targets (and allies get a +1 to hit). Is this worth 2 feat slots?  Should they stay, move to later in the build, or be removed entirely?

I may also be focusing too much on accuracy.  Currently I have:
18 starting Charisma
Staff Expertise
Accurate Staff
Elemental Savant
White Lotus Enveneration (conditional)
Arcane Spellfury (conditional)
Oncoming Storm (very conditional)

Perhaps a feat or two that boosts damage would be appropriate, like Raging Storm, or less likely Echoes of Thunder (which is another conditional bonus).

I should also probably choose more effective at-wills than Acid Orb and Dragonfrost.  I might keep Dragonfrost for its Push 1 and Ranged Basic Attack (in case a leader ally grants basic attacks), but Acid Orb is better spent elsewhere.  I'll probably replace both, but with what?

So... recommendations?  Comments?
When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work. And Stay Down: The Polearm Momentum Handbook
IMO. Elemental Savant is somewhat a trap.  As a striker you shouldn't be interested in Elemental Form 2x/day, since you can't attack with it.  I'd strongly consider Lyrandar Windrider if a dragonmark is an available option.  Keeps with the half-elf flavor and you still get the +1 hit with thunder/lightning powers, plus the large damage boost.

Assuming you selected acid orb and dragonfrost with your elemental magic feature at 9th and 19th, I'd recommend replacing those with two of the generally superior elementalist (non-level) at-will powers.  I don't believe non-human elementalists can get a 1st level sorcerer at-will before 9th level.
He already said he's trying to avoid cheese. Mark of Storm is as broken a feat as there is.
You could look into speaker of xaos and get brutal1 on your damage rolls.  Or you could consider arcane admixture and essence mage. 

A person in my group switched to a tiefling fire elementalist.  He has hellfire blood, arcane admixture cold, blood of levistus(he is also going for resists), and took essence mage as his PP.  I know he could do more as he took scholar for flavor instead of something that gave more attack like infernal prince or more damage like primordial adept.  He still averages about 40-50 damage with elemental bolt.

I would suggest that you maximize elemental bolt and maybe one other at will.  Acid orb and Dragonfrost are not all that good for an elementalist, especially an air one due to your elemental bolt benefit only working on spells with the elemental keyword which acid orb and dragonfrost do not have.
I'd strongly consider Lyrandar Windrider if a dragonmark is an available option.  Keeps with the half-elf flavor and you still get the +1 hit with thunder/lightning powers, plus the large damage boost.


It's worth pointing out that a half-elf Air Elementalist with Mark of Storm is one of the rare cases where a damn good optimization kit aligns perfectly with the fluff.  Capitalize on such things whenever possible.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
Okay, so Acid Orb and Dragonfrost need to go (and I just realized Elemental Bolt is a basic attack, derp derp).  Other elementalist at-wills are better choices.  BTW I got them as my Level 11 Savant Power and Level 19 Elemental Magic choices.  The character summary does an amazing job of not describing what's going on in a build (grumble grumble).  Also, any time I change those selections the character builder breaks and won't show me a list anymore, bless it. 
I'm thinking Ice Prison and Blazing Cloud/Ignition are great choices, though the Thunder type and CA from Seismic Shock is really appealing.

Elemental Savant didn't interest me for its daily power (which I view more as a mobility/escape/roleplay power than anything).  Its +1 to attacks interested me most.  That's starting to pale a little compared to better suggestions, though.

Lyrander isn't a bad paragon path at all (it's actually great), but its Mark of Storm requirement could get me in trouble.  It's a feat that can raise hackles at its very mention, regardless of how it's used.  :D  Plus some folks still restrict dragonmarks to Eberron campaigns and like to hold the player to the roleplay implications of having a dragonmark.  This is all stuff that would have to be cleared with a DM first.
I'd have an easier time doing Lasting Frost + Wintertouched in a cold build.  However, if I can take mark of storm, Lyrander is an excellent pick.

Tiefling fire elementalist was very tempting, for its easy access to a +1 to attack rolls.  Essence mage looks like a great outlet for the Fire+Ice arcane admixture combo.  I like that.  It adds an encounter attack power to track, but that's not terrible.  I had avoided a fire build because fire resistance is handed out like candy in the monster manual; however, when you start doing dual-typed damage, resistance stops being such a show stopper because now the enemy must resist both types or the spell penetrates.

Scholar is a really good theme -- it balances out the character marvelously on the non-combat end, and being a scholar is just fun from a roleplay side.  Being able to speak every language makes you a valuable addition to the party, and the bonus skill training is also quite nice.  And speaking every language can help you whether you're on the party's side or acting in your own interests...  :D

That said, Infernal Prince is insanely good in a fire build.  The +1 to attacks is ridiculous as a permanent, passive bonus in a character theme from level 1, and hellfire heart is a great way to squeeze out more damage (and it works the same way my elementalist encounter powers do, so even more valuable).  It's getting to where a character simply cannot affort to not take a theme these days.  Some bonuses just cannot be passed up.  O_o

I think I might stick with half-elf though, despite it not being the optimal choice.  The character I have in mind is too much fun to pass up.    BUT, I might change my focus to fire, especially since there's very little in the build tying me to the lightning+thunder choice.


edit:
speaker of xaos is also a decent choice of paragon path.  Forgot to look that one up.
Mand12: That's a good point.  That would make Mark of Storm a much more viable option if I'm playing an Eberron campaign, or the DM doesn't care so much.


So, more questions:

1) Which is a more valuable use of arcane admixture:  enhance a power like Ignition/Blazing Cloud with Thunder so it can be a 5x5 area with Resounding Thunder, or enhance it with Cold to enjoy blood of levistus and/or the Lasting Frost + Wintertouched combo?
1b) If I pick cold, would wintertouched + lasting frost be a bad use of two feats, given that I plan for a low magic items campaign (and thus can't stack item bonuses into the combo) but would be doing cold damage on nearly all my attacks?
1c) Would it be better to ditch fire and just do Cold+Thunder, for 5x5 cold attacks that exploit frostcheese and blood of levistus?

2) Which combination of elements is most likely to be unbothered by resistances: fire+thunder, fire+ice, and/or ice+thunder?  (I don't enjoy fighting enemies that resist most or all of my attack ala shambling mounds, so I'm always wary of this.  It's what bothered me most about my lightning+thunder focus)

3) Last of all: are my conditional attack bonuses (white lotus enveneration and arcane spellfury) bad choices, or decent in this build?  I already intend to toss white lotus defense and oncoming storm, but enveneration and spellfury could be a lot of fun in that they reward targeting the same enemies over as a wave of momentum (though it crashes once I miss, and it's a lot of bookkeeping when used in area attacks).
When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work. And Stay Down: The Polearm Momentum Handbook
the conditional attack bonuses are annoying to keep track of, but if youre admixturing cold onto your elemental bolt, you already have to track who you hit for vuln 3 elemental, vuln 5 cold, and granting you CA, so adding enervation and spellfury isn't really any extra bookkeeping. 

for the low price of two admixtures (cold for ebolt and thunder for ice prison) you can be relatively safe from being resisted, play up the blizzard theme of your wind and snow powers, and (assuming lyrandar) have an area burst 2 at-will that deals  d8+cha+con+con+8+other mods, slides and slows, with blind on elemental escalation.  if you started with water instead of air, escalation slides 2, dazes and prones.  that's pretty brutal control, 4x an encounter, either way.  and is well worth the damage loss vs fire+cold, particularly given your larger burst size. fire+cold+thunder takes 4 admixture feats, which is really hard to fit in (though possible, especially if you're starting at high level. 

fire is only worth it, in my opinion, with the full tiefling support package.  otherwise the control is better then the slight damage boost. 
I do not see any thunder resist out there.  The primordial adept level10 ability is +2 cold/thunder or fire/thunder depending on what your level1 choice was for powers.  Oncoming storm could be huge if you use it on a lightning/thunder burst/blast power that hits multiple targets as Wizards has already stated that it triggers on the first successful attack roll and would give you the bonus for each follow up roll.  If you can grab enlarge spell that could make your at wills even bigger.

Both lightning and fire have great superior implement support for sorcerers since they use daggers.  Getting a +2 on damage rolls for either one is great and you have a choice of going fire and taking the incendiary dagger for +1 attack vs ref or doing lightning and taking the lancing dagger for empowered crits. 

If you decide to crit fish, then look into lightning arc if you do air.  I think it is under utilized because it needs a crit but getting to do good damage on a second target when you crit is good.  For a refresher on the feat, if you crit, you can either do normal crit damage to the target you hit or, roll damage and apply that damage to the target and another target of your choice.

Also, though I think it is too feat intensive, you could take dilettante, get shortbow as an implement, and grab a ranger power, and use Expert Archery to swap it out to one of the hunter powers and use that to modify your elemental bolt.  Either ignore cover, area attack with it at a -2 to hit, or do the slow/prone/something I can't remember with it.

Do not discount the vulnerable 3 to your elemental spells.  If you do decide to do lasting frost and admixture your elemental bolt to cold, then you would do an extra 8 damage after you hit it, 3 from it being an elemental spell and 5 from it being cold.
Nirafelos:
Hmm... I like that.  Lots of control and damage.  The Cold+Thunder combo could make for excellent roleplay flavor too: the thunder damage is from shockwaves traveling through the ice; or the ice is created with the pressure of shockwaves traveling through the air and compressing moisture into ice crystals by magically sucking out the heat.

Sadly I don't think you can do fire+cold+thunder with 4 admixture feats unless you have a power that is already dual-typed -- you have to choose a different power each time you take arcane admixture.

Edit:
So since all those conditional bonuses are on hit, I could come up with a little Elemental token I place on enemies when I hit them (as a pipe cleaner wrapped around the figure, or a loop I place on its head) to mark who I've hit last.  In bookkeeping it would behave like a warlock's curse (saying "this thing really gets it next time I attack"), and it would signify to allies that they will have an easier time attacking the defense I'm targeting.

Edit for Koshinuke:
That's a good point on oncoming storm.  However, I think enlarge spell is wizard only.

Do multiple vulnerables to different types stack?  I did not know that... excellent.  Although I don't plan on using elemental bolt very often (the area attacks are generally preferred).

When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work. And Stay Down: The Polearm Momentum Handbook
I just read enlarge spell and I forgot the errata changed it to wizard at wills only.  Different vulnerabilities do stack, as long as they are not the same type.  I.e., vulnerable 5 cold and vulernerable 5 fire would do 10(5 cold, 5 fire) extra damage if hit with both fire and cold.  However, vulnerable 5 cold and vulnerable 3 cold do not stack (unless the vulnerable 5 cold came from an elemental warlock).  I have studied the vulnerable rules a lot since I am working on an elemental/vestige warlock.  At epic, the warlock could consistantly do at least +20 damage just from the vulnerabilities the warlock can do.
Haha, that's cool.  Target the enemy's weakness for MASSIVE DAMAGE.  And in your case, manufacture said vulnerability.  ;)

So a cold elementalist who admixtures in thunder in Paragon sounds like a fine idea.  I think I'll pursue that.
When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work. And Stay Down: The Polearm Momentum Handbook
If ever you are in a party with a Morninglord/Anyone that can give radiant vulnerability, you should take Pervasive Light.  It takes MC divine, paragon but it states that if your target has radiant vulnerability and, you deal damage with a type that is not radiant, you do damage equal to the vulnerability.  So it is possible to dip into vulnerable x radiant without using a radiant weapon.

Edit:  One thing about taking lasting frost, by giving a target that has variable resistance a vulnerability, you prevent them from being able to resist that.  MM2, pg216 I believe has the rules on that but it does state that if a creature that has variable resistance gets a vulnerability that is one of the types he can switch the resistance to then he cannot get resistance to that type, i.e. he has varible resistance, gets hit with cold, but gets vulnerable 5 cold, he is unable to get resistance to cold from variable resistance.
Academy master is an excellent PP if you are using at wills.  Accuracy, damage, and no issues with most DMs.
Except the level11 and the level20 powers do not work as written.  They have the reliable keyword yet have no targets.  You can't miss if you do not have a target.  And the level20 daily has no encounter power you can use it on as it is written.
Hence the comment about "most DMs," who will likely recognize two things:


  • it's more fun if the paragon path exists and works

  • it's not overpowered if the paragon path exists and works


I'm all for nitpicking over rules, but there are times when the collateral damage is too strong.  Academy Master is one of those times.

D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
The_Crimson_Dawn & Mand12: Thanks for the suggestion.  Normally Acadamy Master might be a very interesting choice, but here are a few things to keep in mind about this build that can disrupt its usefulness:

1) I have no encounter attack powers, except those that simply add damage to an at-will (and in their case the attack roll was already made with the at-will, so it's impossible for them to ever miss).  Therefore two of the powers of this class do not work for this build even if fixed up a little.  Learned Boost is the only power that applies to my build and, as pointed out, it's questionable whether the devs were sober when they wrote it (though it's okay even without reliable).

2) Academy Master's bonus to attack is conditional, not static (it's another "if I hit, I get a bonus to hit next time", and I have several of those already).  That's not terrible, but it has to compete with other paragon paths that give a passive +1 or work better with the build overall.

3) Academy master does offer bonus damage at L16, but it's only 3-5 (other paths offer comparable bonuses with less sacrifice... say to a specific damage type).  Normally 3-5 is great, but I'll have to ponder over whether it competes with other choices.

I don't want to haggle with the DM over how to make the other powers work for me... that's too much effort and it's easy to make them either grossly overpowered or still useless.  What would I change Refined Recall to say?  I deliberately have no encounter attack powers except those that just add damage to my at-wills.  Making it affect dailies is too powerful usually, but I have few dailies anyway.    Master's Surge is likewise very difficult to apply to this build without hefty homebrew.  Instead of trying to fit halfling clothes on an orc, I'm inclined to just buy different clothes.

That said, let's assume I don't worry about two of the powers not working.  This class then equates to:
L11: Extra copy of Arcane Spellfury
L11: Action point lets you reroll your next attack if it's a miss (which is okay but not incredible since it's always going to be an at-will; ensuring a hit is valuable all the same though)
L16: +3 damage
L25: another +2 damage

Encounter Power: try to roll an at-will attack, and add extra damage (to only one target?) on a hit only.  With a moderately gracious DM, this power isn't expended if the at-will misses and it gives bonus damage to every target, greatly improving its worth.

So I'll need to do some comparing to see how that measures up.  It actually might be pretty decent, but my head hurts too much to continue pondering for the moment. 
When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work. And Stay Down: The Polearm Momentum Handbook
1) I have no encounter attack powers, [...].  Therefore two of the powers of this class do not work for this build even if fixed up a little.

But it comes with an encounter attack power.  That's the rules-discussion they were having above.

"Nice assumptions. Completely wrong assumptions, but by jove if being incorrect stopped people from making idiotic statements, we wouldn't have modern internet subculture." Kerrus
Practical gameplay runs by neither RAW or RAI, but rather "A Compromise Between The Gist Of The Rule As I Recall Getting The Impression Of It That One Time I Read It And What Jerry Says He Remembers, Whatever, We'll Look It Up Later If Any Of Us Still Give A Damn." Erachima

Any rules-laywering about Academy Master stops cold when you recognize that, as written, both the E11 and D20 simply do not work.  For anyone.  Ever.

As soon as you go beyond that, you're firmly in RAI territory.  Fortunately, the RAI in this case is relatively straightforward and easy to implement.  And once you're in RAI territory, quibbling over the fact that Elemental Escalation isn't actually an attack power loses its appeal, at least to me.  Just give it its extra dice and move on.

If you do take that approach, Academy Master becomes a strong if somewhat unexciting paragon path.  Strong, but not strong enough to be overpowered either compared to other PPs or to other classes.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition
(edit: this was directed at kilpatds but Mand12 was too quick for me)
Well not really.  The one encounter attack power the class offers is one that lets you use an at-will for some bonus damage, and it takes quite a bit of doctoring to make the daily and utility apply to that encounter power effectively.

Assuming your DM allows you to interpret the Reliable on Learned Boost to mean "if the at-will misses this is not expended", Refined Recall simply serves no purpose.  What does it do?

Master's Surge does sort-of work with Learned Boost, but again you'd want the Reliable keyword changed to "if the encounter power misses" which for learned boost cascades to "If the at-will attack misses".  This will raise some eyebrows, but you could convince some DMs to do it (I suppose).  If this is the case, you have another use of of Learned Boost once per day, with more bonus damage & lengthened effect duration.  Possibly against only one target, or maybe not.

But still, it's clumsy as hell.  These are incredibly poorly written powers even for a normal spellcaster, and in this build's case it's especially awkward because of the lack of targeting encounter powers.  I'm imagining trying to explain how this works to a DM and watching his eyes get narrower and narrower.  He'd need to be exceptionally workable to avoid thinking I'm up to something devious and lowering relations with me as a player and known powergamer.  Depending on the DM, that could be way too much dancing in the gray areas for me. 

And that's a shame, because Academy Master fits well with a scholar theme and roleplaying as an expert in my field of arcana.  WOTC really needs to errata those powers into a servicable state, but who knows when they'll do that...  It takes how many months on average, even for the really serious problems that irk nearly everyone?  ;)

Edit: For fixing Academy Master, I like the way Elementalist implemented its encounter powers.  It's very straight-forward: they're only ever used when you've already hit with an at-will power, so they don't need to be reliable.  Not sure what to do with the utility, but that greatly simplifies Learned Boost.  The daily is trickier (mostly because it allows not expending the encounter power), but similar.
When my computer inevitably explodes and kills me, my cat inherits everything I own. He may be the only one capable of continuing my work. And Stay Down: The Polearm Momentum Handbook
For some context in your exploration of RAI, the idea behind Academy Master is that you're using simpler forms of magic more effectively than the average bear, which results in greater power.  So, Learned Boost takes an at-will attack and pumps it up to Encounter strength; Master's Surge takes an encounter attack and pumps it up to Daily strength.

For Learned Boost, the Reliable keyword basically means that you don't 'waste' the power increase by missing.  Later, similar powers simply have this sort of effect as a no-action triggered power that increases the damage dealt, for example Power Strike.  If you want to point to another power as a model to convince your DM, Power Strike is exactly what you should be looking at, particularly its Paragon-level damage boost.  The lack of a chance to 'waste' Learned Boost is what you get in exchange for any increased effect rather than simply increased damage for your E11 paragon path power.

For Master's Surge, the non-expenditure of the encounter power is because Master's Surge is replacing the D20 paragon path power.  Every other PP's D20 doesn't prevent you from using an encounter power, so Master's Surge doesn't either.  It needs to mention an encounter power to use as a base for increased damage and (allegedly - save ends is in many cases inferior to UEONT) better effects, but it shouldn't mean that you can't use the normal encounter power.  Reliable is just icing that makes it a bit stronger but not hugely so.

If I were to make a houserule adhering to RAI of Academy Master to an Elementalist, I'd do the following:

Learned Boost:  No action, triggered on hit with at-will.  +2dX to the damage roll, dX is the damage die of the power (d12 for Elemental Bolt, d8 for Static Charge as examples).

Master's Surge:  No action, triggered on hit with at-will after Elemental Escalation is used.  Elemental Escalation's damage boost increased by 2d10, duration of Elemental Escalation's effects changed to (save ends) if they aren't already.

Refined Recall is easy to implement:  when you use Elemental Escalation and then subsequently miss all targets, that use of Elemental Escalation is not expended.
D&D Next = D&D: Quantum Edition