"You have a problem with my friends? Don't even breathe in their direction, or you all
will be spending the rest of your miserable lives in pain, face down in the muck."
Litigation - for one of the greatest handbooks ever: Pillars of Faith (and Facestabs) - The Paladin's Handbook
Alcestis - for making me think about this build (and incidentally indicating the mechanics needed explaining)
Jason Engle - for creating the original pic (the above has some less talented additions made by me)
Introduction - A Straladin Primary Defender
[sblock Introduction]There are good reasons as to why the Straladin is generally considered a less optimal base from which to build a primary defender. Though still the best choice for certain parties and often remarkably competent at handling a dangerous opponent, in comparison to the Chaladin, the Straladin has traded defender potential for striker potential. This can be seen at the most basic level, such as the Paladin's trademark action-independent mark punishments; in comparison to the Chaladin, the Straladin's marks arrive crippled to a build chassi with limited options to improve the marks, not to mention options for defender tools to complement them.
Nevertheless, a few Straladin defender mechanics have true potential in certain combinations, sometimes effectively realized when complemented with options from another class. For example, imagine if all the Straladin's marks would also provide the triggers and the immediate interrupt MBA punishment of the Fighter's Combat Challenge power, wouldn't that create a very strong defender mechanic, capable of keeping enemies close as well as punishing those not adjacent? And what if the Straladin's OAs would also stop movement like the Fighter's Combat Superiority feature, wouldn't that be a great complement? The Punishing Polepally has the bigger, better and flashier Stormtrooper versions of these.
This build isn't meant to display groundbreaking new build combinations; it's based on a potent but demanding and unusual Straladin specialization that has been available for years, though to my knowledge surprisingly rarely discussed and never exemplified in detail on CharOp. More importantly, this build reaches for the very limits of the Straladin's primary defender potential, when completed hopefully showing just how good a Straladin can be at her day job.
To further this most holy of endeavors, I humbly ask for your learned advice, critique, questions and opinions.
Build Concept - Mark Punishment, Control and Self Defense
The main goal of the Punishing Polepally build is to be the most effective Straladin primary defender possible. To achieve this, the build focuses on combining:
- strong native marks (DC/DS) and marking powers for punishment-stacking, the ability to defend against numerous enemies, the unavoidable punishment and the related strong class build options
- the "enlarged Combat Challenge" MBA mark punishment and shift trigger of the Longarm Grasp feature for the optimization-friendly punishment and superior stickiness
- the reach, slide and knock prone properties of the Polearm Stormtrooper combo for the action-denial capacity of interrupting MBAs and the increased close combat control in general, especially with multitarget attacks
- durability from primarily Paladin class options and triggered attack responses to enemy aggression towards self for better survivability, more frequent action-denial and maintained defender catch-22 balance
These primary defender abilities - DC/DS marks, Longarm Grasp, Polearm Stormtrooper and Self Defense - are clearly reflected in virtually every single build component as well as the build's combat mechanics and prefered tactics.
[sblock Level 1-30 Summary]
Punishing Polepally, level 30
Half-Orc, Paladin, Polearm Master, Indomitable Champion
Background Alternatives: Arcane Student Who Saw Too Much, Auspicious Birth, Berserker - Follower of Kord (Perception)
FINAL ABILITY SCORES
STR 28, CON 14, DEX 16, INT 10, WIS 26, CHA 12
STARTING ABILITY SCORES
STR 16, CON 12, DEX 12, INT 8, WIS 16, CHA 10
AC: 511 Fort: 50 Ref: 42 Will: 492
HP: 223 237 Surges: 13 Surge Value: 55 59
Athletics +27, Endurance +22, Insight +28, Religion +20, Heal 28, Perception +28
0 Half-Orc: Half-Orc Resilience, Swift Charge
5 Ironwrought: resist all 6 when bloodied
11 Polearm Master: Forceful Reach
16 Polearm Master: Longarm Grasp
0 At-will: Divine Challenge, Lay on Hands 8/day
0 Encounter: Furious Assault racial, Inevitable Strike theme, Divine Mettle/Strength Channel Divinity
1 Ardent Strike, Holy Strike pally AA1
1 Divine Pursuit pally EA1 replaced lvl 13
1 Blazing Brand pally DA1 replaced lvl 15
2 Call of Challenge pally EU2
3 Winter's Edge pally EA3 replaced lvl 17
5 Arc of Vengeance pally DA5 replaced lvl 19
6 Virtue pally EU2
7 Hold Fast pally EA3 replaced lvl 23
9 Knightly Intercession pally DA9 replaced lvl 25
10 Guiding Verse pally EU10
11 Leveraging Strike pp EA11
12 Reaching Stance pp DU12
13 Castigating Strike pally EA13
15 Avatar of Undaunted Bravery pally DA15 replaced lvl 29
16 Shield of Discipline pally EU6
17 Mark of Terror pally EA17 replaced lvl 27
19 Wheel of Fate pally DA19
20 Polearm Sweep pp DA20
22 Divine Aegis pally DU16
23 Champion's Call pally EA23
25 Exalted Retribution pally DA25
26 Epic Tenacity ed DU26
27 Stunning Smite pally EA27
29 Powerful Faith pally DA29
30 Unmatched Defense ed DU30
1 Blessed Strength
2 Devout Protector Expertise3 retrained lvl 11
4 Mighty Challenge
6 Battle Awareness Athletics
8 Mark of Storm
10 Improved Defenses
11 Polearm Momentum, Polearm Expertise3 retrained lvl 23
12 Polearm Gamble
14 Thirst for Battle
16 Weapon Proficiency Greatspear3
18 Superior Will
20 Deadly Draw retrained lvl 21
21 Weakening Challenge, Crusading Wrath
22 Divine Mastery
23 Mighty Crusader Expertise3
24 Deadly Draw
26 Honored Foe
28 Impaling Spear
30 Hafted Defense
Lightning Greatspear +6, Symbol of the Champion's Code +6, Agile Godplate Armor +6, Timeless Locket +6, Crown of Stuttered Time, Iron Armbands of Power (epic), Strikebacks, Shadow Band, Ring of the Dragonborn Emperor, Belt of Vim (epic), Rushing Cleats, Backlash Tattoo, Eberron Shard of Lightning (epic), Fragment of the Eleventh Rack (paragon), Kingslayer's Curse - Face Me, Cowards4
- AC 48 while bloodied
- All defense values are at -2 vs. enemies not dependent on eyesight (tremorsense, blindsight etc) and thus ignore concealment
- Much of this retraining chain isn't strictly necessary, but optimizes defender performance during as many levels as possible. During heroic, the Polepally is best off wielding a longsword and carrying a shield for better AC and the superior Devout Protector Expertise. At level 11, the longsword must be exchanged for a polearm (halberd or glaive) and Devout Protector retrained for Polearm Expertise. Because of the Longarm Grasp feature gained at level 16, accuracy has increased value and the Polepally becomes proficient with the superior greatspear and changes weapons. Finally, at level 23, the Polepally gains Champion's Call, an implement attack which requires the retraining of Polearm Expertise into Mighty Crusader Expertise.
- Legendary Boon (alternative reward)[/sblock]
The Primary Defender Mechanics
Though naturally all components of any build will affect its performance, most components in this build also combine in the distinct set of abilities mentioned above, differentiating the Polepally from the more typical Straladin. These key defender abilities and the associated build components are explained in the first section. To illustrate the mechanics of these abilities and how they combine to force opponents into catch-22 situations, simplified examples of enemy actions and the Polepally's responses are described in the second section.
[sblock The Key Defender Abilities]
Polearm Stormtrooper: Reach 2, Slide 3 and Knock Prone
A Stormtrooper is simply a build which adds a "slide 1" effect to all of its attacks by combining the Mark of Storm feat with lightning/thunder attack powers. The Polearm version wields a reach Polearm and increases the slide to at least 2 squares and knocks hit enemies prone with most or all its attacks through the Polearm Momentum feat. Starting at level 11, the "reach 2, slide 3 and knock prone on hit" properties of this build are added to all melee attacks, and the slide and knock prone effects to all weapon burst attacks*. The Stormtrooper ability thus not only makes all the Polepally's standard action attacks significantly more powerful, but notably also all attacks made outside of his own turn. This is an effective defender tool in the Polepally's hands, often resulting in a hit enemy being robbed of its move action or even its entire turn when combined with interrupting attacks (generated by especially the Longarm Grasp feature and the Polearm Gamble feat). With a Polearm Master degree from the Stormtrooper Academy, an unusually long and flashy pointed stick and the grip of his smelly old shoes, the Polepally thus provides a better defense for his party. In addition, this classic combination gives our crusader the ability to poke several baddies at once into bad positions and/or pile them together for allies' area attacks, besides allowing for single-poking into an area almost three times as large as that of the typical short-stick Paladin.
Slide 3 lightning weapon + 1 mark of storm, +1 rushing cleats, +1 forceful reach
*The Polepally's only non-weapon attack power is the E23 Champion's Call (slides 2: thunder keyword + 1 mark of storm, +1 rushing cleats)
DCC: Longarm Grasp
This level 16 feature gives the Polepally an improved version of the Fighter's Combat Challenge power, as it triggers a MBA when a marked enemy attacks an ally or shifts within 2 squares instead of only adjacent. With the Deadly Draw and Impaling Spear feats, those triggered MBAs as well as other weapon attacks also become significantly more accurate against most enemies. While limited to immediate actions, it's a powerful defender tool in a Polearm Stormtrooper's hands that makes it difficult for most nearby marked enemies to escape and/or attack allies. Together with boosted DC/DS, the Longarm ability forms the Polepally's unique combined mark which I naturally call Divine Combat Challenge, DCC (or DCS in case of a DS mark).
Weapon MBA attack: +36(38) vs. Ref / MBA damage: 2d10+26 lightning +15 lvl, +9 str, +6 enhancement, +3 proficiency, +3 expertise (deadly draw) impaling spear / MBA greatspear, +9 str, +6 enhancement, +6 IAoP, +5 shard
DCC: Divine Challenge and Divine Sanction
Through the Blessed Strength and Mighty Challenge feats and the Symbol of the Champion's Code, the virtually unavoidable DC/DS punishment deals close to the maximum static damage possible to any enemy marked by DCC that ignores the Polepally and attacks an ally. And in epic, the Weakening Challenge feat also cuts the triggering attack's damage in half. As the Longarm part of the DCC mark doesn't come into play until level 16, requires a roll to hit and most notably an immediate action, the boosted DC and DS keeps any and all DCC marked enemies escaping the Longarm in check, as well as slapping on a big chunk of damage to those grasped by the Longarm while trying to attack allies. Besides the lasting DCC from the Paladin class' at-will Divine Challenge power, the Polepally can apply several DCS marks per encounter and day through other powers:
¤ Ardent Strike AA1 - EoNT DCS on hit, usable with charge at-will
¤ Call of Challenge EU2 - EoNT mass DCS in burst 3 1/enc, level 2
¤ Knightly Intercession DA9 - immediate pull adjacent and attack with lasting DCS on hit 1/day, level 9-24
¤ Castigating Strike EA13 - EoNT mass DCS in burst 3 on hit 1/enc
¤ Divine Strength - lasting boosted DCS through the Crusading Wrath feat 1/enc, level 21
In every epic encounter, the Polepally may thus keep two enemies marked during the entire encounter through DC and Divine Strength, and twice also all enemies within 3 squares until end of next turn by using the Call of Challenge and Castigating Strike encounter powers. And with the Divine Mastery feat gained at level 22, the Polepally may also gain a third lasting mark or a third round of mass DCS when spending an AP.
Divine Challenge damage: 33 / Sanction damage: 24/31 9 power, +9 blessed strength, +9 mighty challenge, +6 symbol / 9 power, +9 blessed strength, +6 symbol, +7 crusading wrath
As DCC provides one of the stronger and more "trigger-happy" mark punishments possible in the game, the Polepally attracts a lot of enemy aggression. To handle this, he has offensive options to punish or outright void enemies' attacks, as well as defensive options to significantly decrease the attacks' effects. Some of the more important of these are powers:
¤ Polearm Gamble OA - against approaching enemy, MBA with "slideproning" 1/enemy turn, level 12
¤ Strikebacks - reaction MBA triggered by being hit 1/enc, level 10
¤ Backlash Tattoo - reaction MBA triggered when being bloodied first time 1/enc, level 9
¤ Ring of the Dragonborn Emperor - reaction re-use encounter attack triggered when being bloodied 1/day, level 15
¤ Fragment of the Eleventh Rack - reaction weaken, restrain and vulnerability 5 to all, triggered when being bloodied 1/day, level 18
¤ Exalted Retribution DA25 - on hit: save ends boosted OAs triggered by target's attacks 1/day
¤ Lay on Hands - 440 HP leaderless healing 55 HP/round, 8/day (Auspicious Birth 472/59 HP)
¤ Virtue EU2 - pro-active Lay on Hands 55 THP 1/enc, level 6 (Auspicious Birth 59 THP)
¤ Guiding Verse EU10 - minor action save on a 2+ roll 1/enc
¤ Shield of Discipline EU6 - EoNT resist all 9 1/enc, level 16
¤ Wheel of Fate DA19 - burst attack, surge-free heal on hit and lasting regeneration 8 while bloodied 1/day
¤ Divine Aegis DU16 - stance +2 boost to all defenses, also for allies within 2 1/day level 22
¤ Crown of Stuttered Time - sustainable phasing and insubstantial 1/day, level 28
In addition, the Polepally priotizes defenses and has other components to help increase overall durability, for example features and feats such as Half-Orc Resilience, Thirst for Battle, Superior Will and the Ironwrought level 5 feature.
To increase the effectiveness of the above abilities and overall defender performance, the Polepally also notably has:
¤ Kingslayer's Curse - non-adjacent enemies' reach attacks against the Polepally receives a -2 penalty level 23
¤ High Initiative - increases enemy turns starting with enemy prone and marked in a bad position
¤ Inevitable Strike - no action, extra damage to one attack and EoNT +1 accuracy buff 1/enc
¤ Leveraging Strike EA11 - ridiculous slide 13 on hit 1/enc
¤ Champion's Call EA23 - burst 5 pull adjacent, implement attack and EoNT immobilize 1-8 marked targets on hit 1/enc
¤ Mark of Terror EA17 - EoNT stun marked target on hit 1/enc, level 17-26
¤ Stunning Smite EA27 - single target primary + secondary against enemies adjacent, EoNT stun up to 9 targets on hit vs. Will 1/enc
¤ Reaching Stance DU12 - threatening reach stance for 5x5 squares OA movement control 1/day
¤ Polearm Sweep DA20 - burst 2 weapon attack, for serious multitarget "slideproning" 1/day
¤ Powerful Faith DA29 - hit with damaging primary triggers secondary: all enemies in 10 EoNT blinded on hit vs. Fort. Hilarious... 1/day
As mentioned, the Polearm Stormtrooper ability means all of the Polepally's powers with the weapon keyword and an attack roll adds "slide 3 and knock prone" to any other hit effects the attack might have. This means especially his multitarget attacks become considerably more powerful than otherwise. A most extreme example of this is the normally relatively mediocre capstone Powerful Faith, which in the Polepally's hands become capable of blinding, re-arranging and proning every single enemy in a huge area (441 or 21x21 squares).
[sblock The Mechanics in Action]
In order to demonstrate the combined effects of the above mechanics, I'll be using a few simplified examples of typical situations at the start of a marked monster's turn, a few possible monster actions and how the Polepally may respond to make each action as poor a choice as possible. Each described monster action includes one or more smileys, which corrensponds to a defender mechanic or ability (besides hinting at how the monster feels about the choice) and are detailed along with common results in the legend below. Please note that the objective of these examples is to explain the Polepally's active defender mechanics - they only include the most basic monster actions and powers (not the full potential of an epic level standard monster). See also "Not included actions/defender mechanics" below.
[sblock Smiley Mechanics Legend]
All numbers are based on the level 30 Polepally and a standard monster of equal level (AC 44, Ref 42, 50% base hit chance vs. ally AC with 4d8+20 melee), but all mechanics are in place at level 16, with the exception of the DCC weakening effect which comes into play at level 21.
1 Attack on ally without punishment. Best of all, of course, is having a big delicious mouthful of a tender squishy and avoid direct disciplinary actions by the Polepally.
2 Attacking the Polepally is rarely much worse than other options, but this choice of target means the attack is at least 37% less likely to hit (25% probability instead of 40%) and is also more likely to have its impact significantly reduced by damage resistance, THP, self-healing, immediate saves etc.
3 Reaction attack triggered by hitting or making the Polepally bloodied. This payback usually comes in the form of a MBA that has a 75 or 85% probability to hit and deal 40 average damage and knock the monster prone in the worst possible position within 3 squares, likely worse than the monster's attack. If the Polepally becomes bloodied, there's also a risk the payback is a more devastating encounter attack instead of a MBA. Not often a much better option than doing nothing and sometimes much worse.
4 DC/DS punishment triggered by attacking ally. This may be better than not attacking at all but it's usually at least equally inefficient as attacking the Polepally and often more dangerous: the monster's penalized and weakened attack on an ally only deals 8 damage on average*, less than a third of the 29 DC/DS damage* that unavoidably punishes the monster for even trying. *40% hit chance when marked, 4d8+20 damage on hit = (.35*38) + (.05*52) 15.9, weakened average damage = 7.95. DC/DS damage is 33 and 31 with the two lasting marks or 24 with the two EoNT mass DS powers, 29 is an approximate average per round and mark.
5MBA triggered by shifting. Often a worse result than doing nothing for especially this melee oriented monster: the MBA has a 75 or 85% hit chance, deals 40 average damage, voids the triggering move action by knocking the monster prone and places the monster in the worst possible position within 3 squares, thus usually putting all targets out of range of melee attacks and maybe forces the monster to waste a standard action to stand up before ending the turn. The monster may instead attempt a ranged attack while prone at an additional -2 penalty which means a high probability of a miss, in addition to potentially triggering DC/DS as in #4 and leaving the monster prone and exposed. If the initial MBA misses, the monster may instead face result #2, 3 or 4.
6OA triggered by moving or ranged/area attack. Worse than a shift and result #5, as an OA doesn't expend the Polepally's immediate action while still an interrupting MBA with equally devastating results plus an improved 80 or 90% base hit chance. The only potential advantage to #5 is if the OA is generated by the Polearm Gamble mechanic, as that at least means the monster has CA against the Polepally until the end of its turn (though it likely may not be able to take advantage of it). Other OAs are triggered by a monster making a ranged or area attack, or moving to attack an ally (thus potentially also triggering DC/DS as in #4 or even the full DCC load for the worst possible result as in #8).
7 DCC triggered by attacking ally. A worse result than #5, this means the monster run a 75 or 85% risk of receiving the full DCC punishment (both result #4 and 5), likely dealing 69 average damage as well as robbing the poor creature of its entire turn. If the monster has used its move action, this result is also likely to leave the enemy prone and not just in the worst possible position within 3 squares. Regardless of whether the MBA hits or not, the monster will still get ripped off in the damage trade of #4.
8 OA and DCC triggered by moving (shifting) and attacking.This is virtually always worse than anything else. In any order, the monster triggers a MBA by shifting as in #5 or by moving as in #6, repeats for a second MBA (taking whichever triggering action not taken first) and attacks ally to trigger the DC/DS punishment described in #4. The worst theoretically possible is of course if an OA is triggered first and then the full DCC punishment is triggered by an attack as in #7, for a potential 109 average damage and a 99.9% risk of an utterly wasted turn. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how a monster takes home the Darwin Award of these examples.[/sblock]
[sblock A - Monster Adjacent to Polepally]
1 Attack Polepally - Less hit chance, high durability and immediate payback abilities make this a poor choice.
2 Attack ally - Triggers the full DCC mark punishment and is thus an awful choice.
3 Shift and attack ally - This comes with similar problems as alternative #2: the Polepally's MBA may be triggered either by the shift or by the attack if the monster is within 2 squares and thus the full DCC punishment.
4 Charge ally - This naturally triggers an OA with equally devastating effects and/or possibly the full DCC/S punishment if the monster is within two squares.
5 Shift and charge ally - Similar to #4, but as the shift triggers a limited immediate MBA instead of an OA, this option isn't quite as bad. But if the Polepally is using the Reaching Stance, it means that if the MBA triggered by the shift isn't made or misses, the monster's charge movement will also trigger an OA with the same results.
6 Ranged or area attack - Regardless of any prior shift, move or choice of targets, this alternative likely has a 80 or 90% probability of adding an additional -2 penalty to the monster's attack roll and/or invalidate some or all targets.[/sblock]
[sblock B - Monster 2 Squares from Polepally]
1 Move/shift (charge) and attack Polepally - This action triggers an OA (move) or, in the slightly less troublesome case, an immediate MBA (shift), which means this is a much worse choice than in example A.
2 Attack ally - This has exactly the same results as in example A.
3 Shift and attack ally - This also has the same results as in example A.
4 Move/charge and attack ally - Along with alternative #6, this is the least bad option in most cases. But if the Polepally is using the Reaching Stance, the movement triggers an OA and thus has equally poor results as in example A.
5 Shift and charge ally - This has the same results as in example A, whith the exception that the Polepally's Reaching Stance won't trigger an OA if the Polepally's MBA triggered by the shift misses (as the monster will be out of reach after the shift).
6 Ranged or area attack - Along with alternative #6, this is the least bad option in most cases, as it usually only triggers the DC/DS punishment or potentially no punishment if the Polepally is one of the targets. But if the Polepally is using the Reaching Stance, the attack triggers an OA and thus has the exact same results as in example A.[/sblock]
[sblock C - Monster 3+ Squares from Polepally]
1 Move/shift (charge) and attack Polepally - A very bad choice, just as in example B.
2 Move/charge and/or attack ally - Unless any of the monster's movement or its attack is within 1 square of the Polepally (or 2 squares when the Polepally has threatening reach) and thus triggers an OA, this action "only" means the monster suffers the DS/DC punishment. Highly dependent on terrain and combatants' positions, which can often be exploited by the Polepally.
3 Ranged or area attack - An area attack which includes the Polepally is naturally the best choice as it avoids any direct penalties from being marked and most immediate payback options from the Polepally, while the other attack options comes with the usual problems.[/sblock]
[sblock Not included actions/defender mechanics]
For the sake of simplicity, I've not included several potential monster abilities (teleportation, reach, close 2+ attacks etc) that a minority of standard monsters have at-will even before epic, even though the Polepally's defender mechanics may of course significantly impact most such abilities. Likewise, most of the Polepally's limited powers and previous turns are unaccounted for, which perhaps most notably means the monster starts its turn standing up. (A far more common situation in actual play is that a marked monster starts its turn prone in the worst possible position the Polepally's previous attack could've slid it into, the monster often having a severely limited number of options to begin with.) In addition, only the mechanics with the most direct and significant impact on each monster action are detailed (ie primarily the Polearm Stormtrooper and DCC abilities).[/sblock]
[sblock Edit History]
Aug 23: Changed Impaling Spear to Deadly Draw.
Aug 24: Changed background to Ironwrought and Strength Through Challenge to Impaling Spear. Added two alternative Path of War backgrounds. Thanks to ThatWasTotallyNinja!
Aug 26: Added pic and new heading.
Aug 30: Edited some bad wording/layout and misses from previous changes, added clarification to the "The Mechanics in Action" and a damage calculation to #4 of the legend to reduce potential misunderstandings.