Rogue - Optimized

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UPDATED 08/16/08

NOTICE: The build and description have been adjusted since the errata to Blade Cascade.

DISCLAIMER: This build demands and expects to maintain combat advantage 90% of the time. If that is not likely in your campaign, this build is not for you. In my honest opinion, you will be better off playing a ranger.


ROGUE - OPTIMIZED




This thread shows the full evolution of an optimized rogue. Most threads show a level thirty character and that’s it. I thought it would be helpful to show, step-by-step, what exactly should be chosen at each level. The goal of this character is to best fill the striker role by providing a focused offense. Reading from the Player’s Handbook (p16), “Strikers specialize in dealing high amounts of damage to a single target at a time. They have the most concentrated offense of any character in the game. Strikers rely on superior mobility, trickery, or magic to move around tough foes and single out the enemy they want to attack.” Every choice is made to further that end. This is the model striker.


ELF ROGUE (brutal scoundrel/shadow assassin/deadly trickster)

Illustration: http://i80.photobucket.com/albums/j166/mikezdiesel/elfassassin.jpg

Ability Scores
Starting L1: Str 16; Con 12; Dex 18; Int 08; Wis 14; Cha 10
Ending L30: Str 24; Con 14; Dex 26; Int 10; Wis 16; Cha 12

Feat Progression
Feats
L01 Toughness
L02 Backstabber
L04 Nimble Blade
L05 Improved Initiative (retrain toughness)
L06 Elven Precision
L08 Warrior of the Wild
L10 Weapon Focus: light blades
L11 Lasting Frost; Wintertouched (retrain weapon focus)
L12 Weapon Focus: light blades
L14 Danger Sense
L15 Adept Power: blade cascade (retrain danger sense)
L16 Danger Sense
L18 Blood Thirst
L20 Light Blade Precision
L21 Light Blade Mastery; Epic Resurgence (retrain light blade precision)
L22 Light Blade Precision
L24 Unfettered Stride
L26 Blind-Fight
L28 Fleet-Footed
L30 Two-Weapon Fighting; Two-Weapon Flurry (retrain fleet-footed)
Exploit Progression
At-Will Attacks
01-30 Deft Strike
01-30 Piercing Strike

Encounter Attacks
01-12 King's Castle
03-16 Bait and Switch
07-30 Imperiling Strike
11-30 Killer’s Eye
13-22 Stunning Strike
17-26 Dragon Tail Strike
23-30 Scorpion Strike
27-30 Hurricane of Blood

Daily Attacks
01-14 Blinding Barrage
05-18 Walking Wounded
09-24 Knockout
15-30 Blade Cascade (ranger)
19-28 Snake’s Retreat
20-30 Final Blow
25-30 Ghost on the Wind
29-30 Assassin’s Point

Utilities
02-30 Tumble (E)
06-30 Ignoble Escape (E)
10-30 Shadow Stride (A)
12-30 Bad Idea, Friend (D)
16-30 Leaping Dodge (E)
22-30 Dazzling Acrobatics (E)
26-30 Epic Trick (D)

Hidden below are six snapshots of the character’s development at the most critical levels (1, 10, 11, 20, 21, 30.) With only slight modification, these can be printed off and used for a rogue of any level, 1 to 30. Each snapshot shows basic character stats, features, optimal exploits, feats and skills. The level 1 snapshot shows starting equipment. After that only magic items are listed. I went light on magic items. Customize as you see fit. Also shown is the attack modifier and damage dealt for the most typical at-will attack, Piercing Strike. Obviously, encounter and daily exploits will do significantly more damage. Combat advantage is presumed and factored so sneak attack damage is included. The only magic item included in damage calculations was the frost dagger. The only magic item included in AC calculations was the elven battle armor. Other defenses are modified by elven cloak. The only feats or abilities included in these calculations were ones with a constant bonus which always applies (like weapon focus and nimble blade.) No situational modifiers were included (like blood thirst and bloody evisceration.)

Not only does this present an optimized rogue at any level you’d like, it can be used as a starting point for development when future source books are published. Please feel free to comment or criticize. All suggestions will be evaluated and I will keep it updated with improvements. Enjoy!


Credits
My most gracious thanks to Sevarian. This character is his as much as mine.
Thanks to those who voluteered their insight: Vikingkingq, Tanath, rcuhljr and Machus
Also, credit to those who first presented rogues with blade cascade: HagiaSophia, Titanium Dragon, and especially Adslahnit and Fastbond for their work on the Orcuslayer thread.
Fond gratitude to MichaelStewart for providing a character illustration. Those who are interested can commission Mike to bring their character to life at www.michaelstewart.deviantart.com.
If you deserve credit, sorry I missed you. PM me for acknowledgement.

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[b]HEROIC TIER[/b]

Level 1 Snapshot

LEVEL 1 SNAPSHOT



[b]Elf Rogue (brutal scoundrel)[/b]
Stats: Str 16; Con 12; Dex 18; Int 8; Wis 14; Cha 10
Combat: Hit Points 29; Initiative +4; Attack +10 v reflex; Damage 10-23
Defenses: AC 16; Fort 13; Ref 16; Will 12

[b]Features[/b]
Elven Accuracy; Elven Weapon Proficiency; Fey Origin; Group Awareness; Wild Step
First Strike; Rogue Tactics; Rogue Weapon Talent; Sneak Attack

[b]Exploits[/b]
At-will: Deft Strike; Piercing Strike
Encounter: King's Castle
Daily: Blinding Barrage

[b]Feats[/b]
Toughness

[b]Skills[/b]
Acrobatics; Athletics; Dungeoneering; Perception; Stealth; Thievery

[b]Starting Equipment[/b]
Leather Armor
Dagger x4, Shuriken (5), Sling (20 bullets), Longbow (30 arrows)
Standard Adventurer's Kit, Climber's Kit, Thieves' Tools

[b]Comments[/b]
Level 1 starts off with a brawny build, choosing brutal scoundrel for our rogue tactic. The benefit over artful dodger will come down the road by being able to take advantage of an good combination of exploits to achieve a higher damage output.
The character sacrifices the possibility of a 20 dexterity for a sturdy ability-tripod of Dex, Str and Wis. By doing so, all defenses (fortitude, reflexes and will) are covered and we take advantage of numerous benefits that together outweigh a single mega-stat.
Start with a wide variety of weapons. Held in hand are two daggers, one for melee, the other to throw if need be. Also on hand are shuriken, a sling and a longbow. Although the longbow can't be used to sneak attack, its range is a great advantage.
Toughness is the chosen feat for early survival and will be retrained at level 5. Chosen skills rely on our primary attributes. Acrobatics and Perception are particularly useful. Our at-will abilities are Piercing Strike, the best melee attack available, and Deft Strike to ensure flanking. This character is focused on melee combat but still has respectable range capabilities.

Damage Calculations for Piercing Strike (at-will attack exploit)
1d4 base + 4 dex + 2d6 sneak + 3 str = 10-23 damage
Level 10 Snapshot

LEVEL 10 SNAPSHOT



[b]Elf Rogue (brutal scoundrel)[/b]
Stats: Str 18; Con 12; Dex 20; Int 8; Wis 14; Cha 10
Combat: Hit Points 69; Initiative +14; Attack +19 v reflex; Damage 15-32
Defenses: AC 24; Fort 21; Ref 24; Will 19

[b]Features[/b]
Elven Accuracy; Elven Weapon Proficiency; Fey Origin; Group Awareness; Wild Step
First Strike; Rogue Tactics; Rogue Weapon Talent; Sneak Attack

[b]Exploits[/b]
At-will: Deft Strike; Piercing Strike; Shadow Stride*
Encounter: Bait and Switch; Ignoble Escape*; Imperiling Strike; King's Castle; Tumble*
Daily: Blinding Barrage; Knockout; Walking Wounded
* utility exploits

[b]Feats[/b]
Backstabber; Elven Precision; Improved Initiative; Nimble Blade; Warrior of the Wild; Weapon Focus

[b]Skills[/b]
Acrobatics; Athletics; Dungeoneering; Nature; Perception; Stealth; Thievery

[b]Magic Equipment[/b]
Frost Dagger +2
Elven Battle Leather Armor +2
Elven Cloak +2
Bracers of Defense (heroic)
Gloves of Piercing

[b]Comments[/b]
Ability increases are dexterity and strength. That trend will continue through the build.
By now we’ve multiclassed lightly into ranger with Warrior of the Wild, giving us the access to the nature skill and hunter’s quarry.
Shadow Stride ups stealth capability. Tumble and Ignoble Escape give the movement edge in combat that the brutal scoundrel needs.

Damage Calculations for Piercing Strike (at-will attack exploit)
1d4 base + 5 dex + 1 focus + 2 dagger + 2d8 sneak + 4 str = 15-32 cold damage
[b]PARAGON TIER[/b]

Level 11 Snapshot

LEVEL 11 SNAPSHOT



[b]Elf Rogue (brutal scoundrel/shadow assassin)[/b]
Stats: Str 19; Con 13; Dex 21; Int 9; Wis 15; Cha 11
Combat: Hit Points 75; Initiative +14; Attack +19 v reflex; Damage 20-44
Defenses: AC 24; Fort 21; Ref 24; Will 19

[b]Features[/b]
Elven Accuracy; Elven Weapon Proficiency; Fey Origin; Group Awareness; Wild Step
First Strike; Rogue Tactics; Rogue Weapon Talent; Sneak Attack
Shadow Assassin's Action; Shadow Assassin's Reposte

[b]Exploits[/b]
At-will: Deft Strike; Piercing Strike; Shadow Stride*
Encounter: Bait and Switch; Ignoble Escape*; Imperiling Strike; Killer's Strike; King's Castle; Tumble*
Daily: Blinding Barrage; Knockout; Walking Wounded
* utility exploits

[b]Feats[/b]
Backstabber, Elven Precision; Improved Initiative; Lasting Frost; Nimble Blade; Warrior of the Wild; Wintertouched

[b]Skills[/b]
Acrobatics; Athletics; Dungeoneering; Nature; Perception; Stealth; Thievery

[b]Magic Equipment[/b]
Frost Dagger +2
Elven Battle Leather Armor +2
Elven Cloak +2
Bracers of Defense (heroic)
Gloves of Piercing

[b]Comments[/b]
Shadow Assassin paragon path is chosen at level 11, giving two nice, new abilities.
This level also gives us a huge boost in damage. Now in paragon tier, we can access the combo of Lasting Frost, Wintertouched and a frost dagger. Retrain the Weapon Focus feat to be able to pick up both at the same time. From here on, it is important to wield a frost dagger.
Sneak attack damage bumps from two dice to three and hunter’s quarry ups to two dice.

Damage Calculations for Piercing Strike (at-will attack exploit)
1d4 base + 5 dex + 2 dagger + 5 frost + 3d8 sneak + 4 str = 20-44 cold damage
Level 20 Snapshot

LEVEL 20 SNAPSHOT



[b]Elf Rogue (brutal scoundrel/shadow assassin)[/b]
Stats: Str 21; Con 13; Dex 23; Int 9; Wis 15; Cha 11
Combat: Hit Points 120; Initiative +20 best of two rolls; Attack +27 v reflex; Damage 26-50
Defenses: AC 33; Fort 29; Ref 32; Will 26

[b]Features[/b]
Elven Accuracy; Elven Weapon Proficiency; Fey Origin; Group Awareness; Wild Step
First Strike; Rogue Tactics; Rogue Weapon Talent; Sneak Attack
Bloody Evisceration; Shadow Assassin's Action; Shadow Assassin's Reposte

[b]Exploits[/b]
At-will: Deft Strike; Piercing Strike; Shadow Stride*
Encounter: Dragon Tail Strike; Ignoble Escape*; Imperiling Strike; Killer’s Eye; Leaping Dodge*; Stunning Strike; Tumble*
Daily: Bad Idea, Friend*; Blade Cascade; Final Blow; Knockout; Snake’s Retreat
* utility exploits

[b]Feats[/b]
Adept Power; Backstabber; Blood Thirst; Danger Sense; Elven Precision; Improved Initiative; Lasting Frost; Light Blade Precision; Nimble Blade; Warrior of the Wild; Weapon Focus; Wintertouched

[b]Skills[/b]
Acrobatics; Athletics; Dungeoneering; Nature; Perception; Stealth; Thievery

[b]Magic Equipment[/b]
Frost Dagger +4 (x2)
Elven Battle Leather Armor +4
Elven Cloak +4
Bracers of Defense (paragon)
Gloves of Piercing

[b]Comments[/b]
By the end of paragon tier, we have used Adept Power to garner Blade Cascade from the ranger exploits. We can now perform a deadly combo: Shadow Assassin’s Action, Imperiling Strike (w/elven precision) and Blade Cascade. This deals serious damage to a single opponent daily—a true assassin.
Leaping Dodge and Bad Idea, Friend add some nice defense.
Initiative has a nice boost with Danger Sense and we will almost always win.
Our weakness in Will defense really shows here.

Damage Calculations for Piercing Strike (at-will attack exploit)
1d4 base + 6 dex + 2 focus + 4 dagger + 5 frost + 3d8 sneak + 5 str = 26-50 cold damage
[b]EPIC TIER[/b]

Level 21 Snapshot

LEVEL 21 SNAPSHOT



[b]Elf Rogue (brutal scoundrel/shadow assassin/deadly trickster)[/b]
Stats: Str 22; Con 14; Dex 24; Int 10; Wis 16; Cha 12
Combat: Hit Points 126; Initiative +21 best of two rolls; Attack +28 v reflex; Damage 32-73
Defenses: AC 34; Fort 30; Ref 33; Will 27

[b]Features[/b]
Elven Accuracy; Elven Weapon Proficiency; Fey Origin; Group Awareness; Wild Step
First Strike; Rogue Tactics; Rogue Weapon Talent; Sneak Attack
Bloody Evisceration; Shadow Assassin's Action; Shadow Assassin's Reposte
Sly Fortune’s Favor

[b]Exploits[/b]
At-will: Deft Strike; Piercing Strike; Shadow Stride*
Encounter: Dragon Tail Strike; Ignoble Escape*; Imperiling Strike; Killer’s Eye; Leaping Dodge*; Stunning Strike; Tumble*
Daily: Bad Idea, Friend*; Blade Cascade; Final Blow; Knockout; Snake’s Retreat
* utility exploits

[b]Feats[/b]
Adept Power; Backstabber; Blood Thirst; Danger Sense; Elven Precision; Epic Resurgence; Improved Initiative; Lasting Frost; Light Blade Mastery; Nimble Blade; Warrior of the Wild; Weapon Focus; Wintertouched

[b]Skills[/b]
Acrobatics; Athletics; Dungeoneering; Nature; Perception; Stealth; Thievery

[b]Magic Equipment[/b]
Frost Dagger +4 (x2)
Elven Battle Feyleather Armor +4
Elven Cloak +4
Ring of Invisiblility
Bracers of Defense (paragon)
Gloves of Piercing

[b]Comments[/b]
Epic tier has arrived and Deadly Trickster is a great epic path for anyone who can take it. Sly Fortune’s Favor makes our Blade Cascade combo very unlikely to miss. Overall damage output improves greatly. Sneak attack increases to five dice, hunter’s quarry to three, and base weapon damage is doubled on our at-will exploits.
Epic Resurgence and Light Blade Mastery are two fantastic feat gains at this level (temporarily retrain light blade precision to gain both.)
Our ability stats really come in nicely at this level, giving a broad range of benefits.

Damage Calculations for Piercing Strike (at-will attack exploit)
2d4 base + 7 dex + 3 focus + 4 dagger + 5 frost + 5d8 sneak + 6 str = 32-73 cold damage
Level 30 Snapshot

LEVEL 30 SNAPSHOT



[b]Elf Rogue (brutal scoundrel/shadow assassin/deadly trickster)[/b]
Stats: Str 24; Con 14; Dex 26; Int 10; Wis 16; Cha 12
Combat: Hit Points 171; Initiative +27 best of two rolls; Attack +36 v reflex; Damage 37-78
Defenses: AC 43; Fort 37; Ref 40; Will 33

[b]Features[/b]
Elven Accuracy; Elven Weapon Proficiency; Fey Origin; Group Awareness; Wild Step
First Strike; Rogue Tactics; Rogue Weapon Talent; Sneak Attack
Bloody Evisceration; Shadow Assassin's Action; Shadow Assassin's Reposte
Sly Fortune’s Favor; Trickster’s Control; Trickster’s Disposition

[b]Exploits[/b]
At-will: Deft Strike; Piercing Strike; Shadow Stride*
Encounter: Dazzling Acrobatics*; Hurricane of Blood; Ignoble Escape*; Imperiling Strike; Killer’s Eye; Leaping Dodge*; Scorpion Strike; Tumble*
Daily: Assassin’s Point; Bad Idea, Friend*; Blade Cascade; Epic Trick*; Final Blow; Ghost on the Wind
* utility exploits

[b]Feats[/b]
Adept Power; Backstabber; Blind-Fight; Blood Thirst; Danger Sense; Elven Precision; Epic Resurgence; Improved Initiative; Lasting Frost; Light Blade Mastery; Light Blade Precision; Nimble Blade; Two-Weapon Fighting; Two-Weapon Flurry; Unfettered Stride; Warrior of the Wild; Weapon Focus; Wintertouched

[b]Skills[/b]
Acrobatics; Athletics; Dungeoneering; Nature; Perception; Stealth; Thievery

[b]Magic Equipment[/b]
Frost Dagger +6 (x2)
Elven Battle Starleather Armor +6
Boots of the Infinite Stride
Belt of Titan Strength
Helm of Ghostly Defense
Elven Cloak +5
Ring of Flight
Ring of Invisiblility
Bracers of Defense (paragon)
Gloves of Piercing

[b]Comments[/b]
The pinnacle of the build.

Damage Calculations for Piercing Strike (at-will attack exploit)
2d4 base + 8 dex + 3 focus + 1 t-w.f. + 6 dagger + 5 frost + 5d8 sneak + 7 str = 37-78 cold damage
I'm a newbie so forgive me for a stupid question:

Why does your 1st and 10th level snapshot list 2d6 sneak attack and 2d8 sneak attack? I thought the rulebook states it's 1d6 and 1d8 with Backstabber feat?
Why does your 1st and 10th level snapshot list 2d6 sneak attack and 2d8 sneak attack? I thought the rulebook states it's 1d6 and 1d8 with Backstabber feat?

Sneak attack damage at levels 1-10 is +2d6. Backstabber will make that +2d8. Perhaps you are thinking of the ranger ability called hunter's quarry? That is +1d6 at levels 1-10.

Comment freely, everyone! If you like things about this build, let me know. If you have any corrections or improvements, no matter how small, let me know that as well. I'm hoping to get plenty of feedback.
FE: At Lvl 1, how did u get HP=29 even with toughness? and Initiative=+14?
would have thought that HP would be more like 18=12(base)+1(con)+5(feat) and initiative=+4
attack basic would be +8 = 4(dex) + 3(dagger) +1 (class)
FE: At Lvl 1, how did u get HP=29 even with toughness? and Initiative=+14?
would have thought that HP would be more like 18=12(base)+1(con)+5(feat) and initiative=+4
attack basic would be +8 = 4(dex) + 3(dagger) +1 (class)

Loriness, thank you for posting! For hit points, you now add your consitution ability score (not modifier) at first level. So 12 base + 12 con + 5 feat = 29. On the initiative, you are quite right. That is a typo, I copied the initiative from the L10 snapshot. I'll edit that right away. Concerning the attack modifier, as I mentioned in the first post, combat advantage is assumed in these calculations. Hence, an additional +2 for a total of +10.
Very nice build and analysis over the levels. Good job !

Since the build is not completely dependent on Blade Cascade and Frost Weapon, and my DM ruled them out (i guess most DMs will rule out at least Blade Cascade), could you perhaps show the next best strategy in your higher level snapshots ?
Very nice build and analysis over the levels. Good job !

Thank you!

Since the build is not completely dependent on Blade Cascade and Frost Weapon, and my DM ruled them out (i guess most DMs will rule out at least Blade Cascade), could you perhaps show the next best strategy in your higher level snapshots ?

Sure, I can do that. You are right. The build is well rounded and robust without those strategies.

Blade Cascade is what puts the build head and shoulders above other strikers, no doubt, but to remove that aspect is simple in the extreme. Choose a different level 15 rogue power. That's it. No other alterations are necessary because everything else that goes along with that combination is good on its own. I'd still keep Warrior of the Wild. I was happy not to have to choose a level 15 exploit because they are all good in their own way. Slaying Strike is probably your safest bet.

Replacing Lasting Frost and Wintertouched is only a little more involved. Obviously, you won't need frost daggers. Replace them with duelist's daggers or wraith blades (dragon magazine.) Replace gloves of piercing with gauntlets of destruction at appropriate levels.

These changes will make room for three new feats to replace Adept Power and the frost feats. Try this:

L11 danger sense
L12 blood thirst
L14 light blade precision
L16 fleet-footed
L18 back to the wall
L20 Iron Will

By the way, when you say your DM ruled out these things, did he just remove them altogether as an option or did he make replacement effects? It would be a shame if the poor ranger lost a daily exploit option compared to everyone else.

Hopefully, he at least realizes that Blade Cascade combos are completely legal. Perhaps this can lead you two to come to an agreement on some house-rule limitation that can keep it in line. That way you can still use it to an acceptible effect. I know there is a lot of talk on options to nerf this exploit.

The frost combo, just so you and your DM know, is also perfectly legal. The rules are on page 226, in the third paragraph under "Power." Here is a quote from customer service that is posted in the Q&A forum.

Q: Does a Frost weapon trigger effects based on the Cold keyword such as Wintertouched and Lasting Frost?

A: As PHB page 226 states, using a weapon with a keyword in an attack made with a racial or class power, the power you are using does gain the weapon's keyword.

Thus making using attack with a Frost Weapon makes that power be Cold as well as whatever other types of damage it was. If you use the weapon's free action power, all damage will be cold.

This will function with both the Winter Touched and Lasting Frost feats.
Just some quick questions...

How come the Shadow Assassin PP was chosen over Daggermaster when you stuck with wielding daggers? Was it just the +1 to hit?

Wouldn't it further increase your damage output if you lost a feat for a Rapier in the current build, especially since you went brutal scoundrel?


I am curious of your choices in this build because I was also looking into a brutal scoundrel elf (or bugbear, if it is allowed, still awaiting DM response). I also planned on getting the blade cascade combo from the ranger multi-class as my group needs lacks this kind of hitting power. I am just torn between basically having the same build as yours except the Daggermaster PP, or the build you use with a rapier.
FE: You are the most polite poster I have ever seen, thank you for that. Things can get so crude online...

Why is Blade Cascade so amazing? Does it work out, in practice, to be as heinous as DMs apparently think it is?

Great build, it makes me happy that this is the epitome of a Rogue striker, I made almost the same build on my own. Maybe my optimization-fu grows stronger.
How come the Shadow Assassin PP was chosen over Daggermaster when you stuck with wielding daggers? Was it just the +1 to hit?

Shadow Assassin was chosen because of the paragon power, Shadow Assassin's Action, which gives you a +4 bonus to attack rolls until the start of your next turn. That way, when you start your Blade Cascade, each attack is +4 to hit.

Wouldn't it further increase your damage output if you lost a feat for a Rapier in the current build, especially since you went brutal scoundrel?

Opinions vary and it really depends on the defense of the monster's you fight. Due to the high amount of damage you deal with either a dagger or a rapier, it is mostly important just to hit. There isn't much difference between say, 24 and 28 points of damage but there is a big difference between 24 and 0 points of damage. Some people say use the dagger for lower level exploits and the rapier for 5[W] or 7[W] exploits. But, with your once-per-day 7[W] exploit, do you really want to miss the big monster that is about to smash you?
What really puts daggers over the top for me is that a lot of attacks also have secondary effects that are not damage. They may stun, blind or in some way inhibit the enemy. That is hard to quantify so is often ignored in an evaluation. Also consider that when using a rapier, you lose a feat otherwise spent on something else.

I am curious of your choices in this build because I was also looking into a brutal scoundrel elf (or bugbear, if it is allowed, still awaiting DM response). I also planned on getting the blade cascade combo from the ranger multi-class as my group needs lacks this kind of hitting power. I am just torn between basically having the same build as yours except the Daggermaster PP, or the build you use with a rapier.

It really depends on what you want to be able to do with your character. For example, a bugbear makes a beast of a brutal scoundrel. +2 Str and +2 Dex is excellent. However, you don't get Elven Accuracy to make sure Imperiling Strike hits when you get up next to that big bad monster at the end of the adventure. Imperiling Strike is crucial to set off Blade Cascade. Regarding Daggermaster, it is generally a better and more commonly useful path than Shadow Assassin. But like it says in the flavor text under Shadow Assassin, "When you need something dead, you'll be hard pressed to find someone better at the job than me." When you see Orcus standing across the room, do you want to be able to teleport over and kill him in one round? The only way to make that likely is with Shadow Assassin's Action. Remember, this build is designed to focus all his damage on one mark and take him out.

Why is Blade Cascade so amazing? Does it work out, in practice, to be as heinous as DMs apparently think it is?.

Blade Cascade is so amazing because of the quantity of damage it can do, especially compared to other level 15 powers. Even without trying to take advantage of it, it can outdo powers of much higher level because you don't have to take anything that isn't good on its own to combo with. Its kind of like playing with your chemistry set and accidently coming up with nitroglycerin. Your DM and the other players may raise an eyebrow, but chances are your DM will be okay with that situational damage spike since it is a daily power.
Things get a lot worse, when you do take advantage of it with an optimized build like this one. The damage gets obscene. 3000 damage to a victim in a single round with a 99% chance of success may be, perhaps, possibly, in some ways to some people...too much.
For those with practical experience, do you guys like starting a rogue with the Toughness feat at first level or jump right into improving his attack modifier?
I started with Imp. Init. then Elven Pres. Back Stabber comes later (lvl 4). I thought average of 2 damage per sneak is not that much compared to going first, which will likely to result in 2 rounds of attack. If I use the rogue smartly with a good party, toughness might not be needed but it is still good for lvl 1, maybe retrain at lvl 2?
Just wanted to thank you for your detailed response FE. You have given me some things to think about before I finalize my own build. :-)
Neat to see this all written up, I like the progression. For those who are interested here's a more 'cookie cutter' bugbear built around dagger master. *note I'm built around the RP concept of jump attacks, so for most people I'd ditch the jump utilities I take later on for more useful ones to your style edit*

Show

Progression Feats
(H)
Backstabber
Improved Initiative
Weapon Focus
Nimble Blade
Surprise Knockdown
Power Attack

(P)
Devastating Critical
Fleet Footed
warrior of the wild
Adept Power(Blade Cascade)
Winter touched
Lasting Frost

(E)

Epic Resurgence
Blind fight
Light Blade Precision
Defensive Advantage
Triumphant attack
Unfettered Stride



1
Sly Flourish AW
Piercing strike AW
Torturous Attack E
Easy Target D
2
Great Leap U
3
Setup Strike E
5
Deep cut D
6
Chameleon U
7
Imperiling strike E
9
Knockout D
10
Shadow Stride U
11
Critical Opportunity E
12
Meditation of the Blade U
13
Torturous Attack -> Unbalancing Attack E
15
Slaying Strike -> Blade Cascade D
16
Leaping Dodge U
17
Setup Strike-> Twin dragon strike E
19
Easy Target -> Snakes Retreat D
20
Deep Dagger Wound D
22
Cloud Jump U
23
Unbalancing Attack -> Steel Entrapment E
25
Snakes Retreat -> Ghost on the Wind D
26
Epic Utility
27
Steel Entrapment -> Perfect Strike E
29
Knockout -> Assassin's Point D

30
Riposte Strike AW
Piercing strike AW

Perfect Strike E
Critical opportunity E
Twin dragon strike E
Imperiling Strike E

Assassin's Point D
Ghost on the Wind D
Deep Dagger Wound D
Blade Cascade D

Great Leap U
Chameleon U
Shadow Stride U
Leaping Dodge U
Cloud Jump U
Epic Utility U


I'm also thinking about dropping surprise knockdown, moving up part of the winter/lasting frost combo and picking up danger sense in paragon. You've got 4 free feats assuming your GM nicks frost weapons and blade cascade. Also depending on your stats, take riposte strike over sly flourish. I rolled very well so I'm keeping it, plus it's a nice ranged at will if I want to throw a dagger with some umph.
For those with practical experience, do you guys like starting a rogue with the Toughness feat at first level or jump right into improving his attack modifier?

I personally take backstabber as my first feat, since it's increasing my damage potential.

One thing: Could you explain how you have such a high chance to do so much damage with Blade Cascade? I'm not seeing it...
If anything I say is wrong, clueless or spelt incorrectly, it is because, I am, in general, wrong, clueless and... Well, I'm usually spelt correctly.
This looks nice and I appreciate the full build so it can be taken at any level. I do have a question though. Although I appreciate the power of blade cascade, how do you think it compares to a fighter MC with pit fighter paragon path? I really love the ability to do +WIS on each attack and the bonus to AC. Plus the 20th level PP power is just cool.
One thing: Could you explain how you have such a high chance to do so much damage with Blade Cascade? I'm not seeing it...

Burn an action point to imperilling strike, then blade cascade, combined with a few other floating bonus's against many monsters you can approach hitting them with anything but a 1 on a d20. Which means blade cascade is going to hit a lot, especially if you have some power that allows you to reroll a missed swing or two.

With one reroll and hitting on an 11 or higher, you get on average 2 hits, each at 2w damage, so 4w, which isn't bad for a level 15..

with one reroll and hitting on a 6 or higher? 6 average hits. 12w damage

3 rerolls (daggermaster) and hitting on a 6? 12 hits.

If you ever get it down to a 2 on a d20 hits? 38 hits on average. (one reroll, 76 hits with 3 rerolls)
Ok, THIS is how a character ought to be presented.

Excellent job, and thank goodness someone finally posts a non level 30 snapshot view of their uber character.
My Sorc Guide Link: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/19649162/Joes_Sorcerer_Guide_AP_update_51509 My Genesi Wizard Blaster Link: http://community.wizards.com/go/thread/view/75882/25082729/Miniguide_to_Genesi_LightningThunder_Blaster_Wizard_%2806-2010%29
Thank you for the praise!

I personally take backstabber as my first feat, since it's increasing my damage potential.

Increasing your damage is far inferior to increasing your attack in 4th Edition, especially at lower levels. Backstabber adds an average of 2.1 or so damage to each successful attack. I think you will find the +1 attack from Nimble Blade to actually cause more damage over an encounter.

One thing: Could you explain how you have such a high chance to do so much damage with Blade Cascade? I'm not seeing it...

rcuhljr summed up the basics. You use your action point to gain an extra action. Being a Shadow Assassin, that gives you +4 to all your attacks this round. You hit your opponent with Imperiling Strike. Now the target takes a penalty to AC and Reflex defense equal to your Strength modifier. With the build's other modifiers, now you hit on anything but a natural 1. You are an elf, so if you roll a 1, you can use Elven Accuracy to reroll once per encounter. Once you get to level 21, you get an additional three rerolls per day from being a Deadly Trickster.


Although I appreciate the power of blade cascade, how do you think it compares to a fighter MC with pit fighter paragon path?

I think it is a mistake to compare them. A fighter is a defender and a rogue is a striker. To maximize the usefulness of your character it should be designed to fill a specific roll in the party. The fighter is better at being a constant source of damage throughout an adventure and sponging the enemy offense. The rogue singles out the problem target and kills it.
I think it is a mistake to compare them. A fighter is a defender and a rogue is a striker. To maximize the usefulness of your character it should be designed to fill a specific roll in the party. The fighter is better at being a constant source of damage throughout an adventure and sponging the enemy offense. The rogue singles out the problem target and kills it.

Sorry I wasn't clear. I mean a Rogue that MC and takes pit fighter vs. a Rogue that MC and takes blade of cascades.
Thank you!

Sure, I can do that. You are right. The build is well rounded and robust without those strategies.

Blade Cascade is what puts the build head and shoulders above other strikers, no doubt, but to remove that aspect is simple in the extreme. Choose a different level 15 rogue power. That's it. No other alterations are necessary because everything else that goes along with that combination is good on its own. I'd still keep Warrior of the Wild. I was happy not to have to choose a level 15 exploit because they are all good in their own way. Slaying Strike is probably your safest bet.

Replacing Lasting Frost and Wintertouched is only a little more involved. Obviously, you won't need frost daggers. Replace them with duelist's daggers or wraith blades (dragon magazine.) Replace gloves of piercing with gauntlets of destruction at appropriate levels.

These changes will make room for three new feats to replace Adept Power and the frost feats. Try this:

L11 danger sense
L12 blood thirst
L14 light blade precision
L16 fleet-footed
L18 back to the wall
L20 Iron Will

Thank you very much ! Some things are already set in stone (we are at lvl 9 right now), but with retaining i will probably get pretty close to that.

By the way, when you say your DM ruled out these things, did he just remove them altogether as an option or did he make replacement effects? It would be a shame if the poor ranger lost a daily exploit option compared to everyone else.

Hes a "I don't care about the rules, if something reduces the cinematic value of fights, its out" kind of guy. Its somewhat annoying for CO, but his campaigns are superb, so i have to swallow that toad... (hmm, can you say that in english?)
Anyway, he reduced the maximum # of attacks per standard action to 4 and removed Wintertouched.

For those with practical experience, do you guys like starting a rogue with the Toughness feat at first level or jump right into improving his attack modifier?

Toughness saved my life several times already when i was scouting ahead, or someone with high perception saw me behind the front lines, or a trap went off, especially during lvl 1 and 2. Depends how risky you play i guess (but then again, we have a DM who loves cinematic tough spots etc).
Sorry I wasn't clear. I mean a Rogue that MC and takes pit fighter vs. a Rogue that MC and takes blade of cascades.

My bad. I misunderstood because I read too fast. The comparison is still a big difference. You're talking about multiclassing into a paragon path if you want Pit Fighter. That has a steeper cost than just swapping one power. If you multiclass into a paragon path, you have to swap three powers. That means those three feats are lost compared to other characters. Make sure you are able to pick up powers that are really that much more powerful than you could otherwise choose. With few exceptions, I don't think paragon multiclassing is worth it. Also, regarding Dirty Fighting, Wisdom is maybe your third highest attribute at best (I would think.) So you are getting only +1 or +2 damage.
If you multiclass into a paragon path, you have to swap three powers.

Unless I'm mistaken that's only if you want to use the class you've multi'd into AS your paragon path, not use one of it's paragon paths. The only pre-req for pit fighter is "Prerequisite: Fighter class" which you get qualified for by
"A character who has taken a class-specific multiclass
feat counts as a member of that class for the purpose of
meeting prerequisites for taking other feats and qualifying
for paragon paths." (page 208 phb)
Unless I'm mistaken that's only if you want to use the class you've multi'd into AS your paragon path, not use one of it's paragon paths.

Oh sweet, you're right. So, as a rogue, you can take a fighter's paragon path even though you don't have any fighter exploits? Weird. Okay, I got it now, I think. And if you do take three power swap feats, after that you can take fighter exploits without swapping. Cool, so it isn't near as bad as I thought to simply take a paragon path from another class. It is easy, in fact.
So now the comparison of Shadow Assassin to Pit Fighter becomes much more meaningful. The answer is: If your DM nixes Blade Cascade, go for Pit Fighter if you will make use of the benefits and like the roleplaying feel. If you have access to Blade Cascade, take it. It is that good.
Oh sweet, you're right. So, as a rogue, you can take a fighter's paragon path even though you don't have any fighter exploits? Weird. Okay, I got it now, I think. And if you do take three power swap feats, after that you can take fighter exploits without swapping. Cool, so it isn't near as bad as I thought to simply take a paragon path from another class. It is easy, in fact.
So now the comparison of Shadow Assassin to Pit Fighter becomes much more meaningful. The answer is: If your DM nixes Blade Cascade, go for Pit Fighter if you will make use of the benefits and like the roleplaying feel. If you have access to Blade Cascade, take it. It is that good.

That's right. Additionally WIS would be my rogue's 2nd highest attribute since I want great perception and it gives me all around good defenses (1st Dex, 2nd Wis, 3rd Str). It makes me almost identical to a ranged ranger but I like the rogue exploits better than a rangers. One could take kensai for the +4 bonus to damage to one weapon but by that level my WIS should be 18, giving me a +4 damage to any weapon and taking TWF gives me additional damage. So as a brutal scoundral, at level 11 with pit fighter I'm doing 2d6+5(DEX)+3(STR)+4(WIS)+1(TWF)+2(weapn focus) with tortuous strike, or 22 ave damage; add +3 to attack and 3d8 damage with CA.
This thread shows the full evolution of an optimized rogue. Most threads show a level thirty character and that’s it. I thought it would be helpful to show, step-by-step, what exactly should be chosen at each level. The goal of this character is to best fill the striker role by providing a focused offense. Reading from the Player’s Handbook (p16), “Strikers specialize in dealing high amounts of damage to a single target at a time. They have the most concentrated offense of any character in the game. Strikers rely on superior mobility, trickery, or magic to around tough foes and single out the enemy they want to attack.” Every choice is made to further that end. This is the model striker.

Just wanted to say thank you for the excellent model. This is perfect for the build I wanted to do.


But I wanted to give you some constructive feeback on the feats. On my personal playstyle (and perhaps the groups) I did not need toughness, and i think that the 5 extra hps even at level 1 wasn't necessary and I am planning going this way ( currently my rogue is level 3):

L1 Nimble Blade
L2 Elven Accuracy
L4 backstabber
L6 Imp init.
rest is the same

Though still debating on taking imp init first, mainly because it opens another opportunity for sneak attack even before moving into flanking thanks to first strike.
That's right. Additionally WIS would be my rogue's 2nd highest attribute since I want great perception and it gives me all around good defenses (1st Dex, 2nd Wis, 3rd Str). It makes me almost identical to a ranged ranger but I like the rogue exploits better than a rangers. One could take kensai for the +4 bonus to damage to one weapon but by that level my WIS should be 18, giving me a +4 damage to any weapon and taking TWF gives me additional damage. So as a brutal scoundral, at level 11 with pit fighter I'm doing 2d6+5(DEX)+3(STR)+4(WIS)+1(TWF)+2(weapn focus) with tortuous strike, or 22 ave damage; add +3 to attack and 3d8 damage with CA.

Man, that is some serious damage. I'll have to look into that. It seems odd to bump Wisdom throughout a brawny rogue's career. However, the advantages are intriguing. Perhaps you could PM me a build?
But I wanted to give you some constructive feeback on the feats. On my personal playstyle (and perhaps the groups) I did not need toughness, and i think that the 5 extra hps even at level 1 wasn't necessary...

Great feedback. I've been hearing everything from "Toughness saved me so many times" to "I never once needed Toughness." It seems very hard to get a handle on. I hate not being able to pick out a best feat at level one but it comes down to your play style. Right now, for general purpose, I'm leaning toward Toughness because if you need it and don't have it, you may be dead. This logic may be flawed.

I also hear a lot of votes for Improved Initiative to be prioritized higher than it is. With an 18 starting Dex, at what level will you begin to lag behind monsters init rolls? There is such a broad range when rolling a d20.
Great feedback. I've been hearing everything from "Toughness saved me so many times" to "I never once needed Toughness." It seems very hard to get a handle on. I hate not being able to pick out a best feat at level one but it comes down to your play style. Right now, for general purpose, I'm leaning toward Toughness because if you need it and don't have it, you may be dead. This logic may be flawed.

I would agree with that. In my group anyway we seen to have a good synergy with a pally marking the main opponents in the encounter, while a wizard handles the minions in AoE form, and the warlord using wolfpack tactics or leaf on the wind to get me/pally into position. Giving that, I am rarely hit, and worst case use blinding barrage to have them blinded and move away from the nasties or activate the +1 frost daggers daily to slow them and move just beyond their reach/out of sight.

I also hear a lot of votes for Improved Initiative to be prioritized higher than it is. With an 18 starting Dex, at what level will you begin to lag behind monsters init rolls? There is such a broad range when rolling a d20.

I guess my point is why allow it to lag behind in the first place? Since there is such a broad range for the D20, why not improve your chances at getting the 2d6+str mod, which is obviously more of an average damage output then upping the dice to d8s, not to mention the +3 to attack during combat advantage, for more hitting = more damage anyway.
At level 4, the initiative bonus would be +10 (including improved init). Even rolling a 1 would give you an 11, which still would make most enemies still have to roll a close to average number on the dice, (and the added bonus of making the groups pally kinda irked :D )

Now that I think about it I think I will go that route. I can keep you informed of my findings.
Good points.

Regarding the Toughness issue, a lot of the abilities you mentioned the party using are not level 1. At what level would you say those party synergies come into their own? Perhaps that is the optimal time to retrain Toughness (if it is worth taking at all.)

Regarding the Improved Initiative issue, the bonus for combat advantage is only going to be an issue on the first normal round of combat. It is likely you will move and make a ranged attack, I'm guessing. I understand that it also means you may get to kill an enemy before he gets another attack it and so on through the encounter. Is that better than a +1 to hit (nimble blade?) Is that better than a reroll for your big attack (elven precision?) Is it better than +2 damage on your attack throughout the combat (backstabber?) If it is better than any of these, it should be acquired sooner than level 6.
Good points.

Regarding the Toughness issue, a lot of the abilities you mentioned the party using are not level 1. At what level would you say those party synergies come into their own? Perhaps that is the optimal time to retrain Toughness (if it is worth taking at all.)

All of the abilities listed can easy be doable at Level 1. Warlords Leaf on the wind (encounter), and and wolf pack tactics (at-will). Pallys can start marking at level 1 and can also use Fearsome Smite (encounter) which will lower enemies attacks by 2 or they can use piercing Smite and mark multiple targets at once. Blinding barrage is the rogues level 1 daily. Wizards using level 1 abilities such as Scorching Burst (At-will) burning hands (encounter), or flaming sphere (daily) can handle minions with relative ease.
Only one that I couldn't use right off the bat was the frost dagger power due to me not acquiring one until recently, but the synergy from level one is easily obtainable.

Regarding the Improved Initiative issue, the bonus for combat advantage is only going to be an issue on the first normal round of combat. It is likely you will move and make a ranged attack, I'm guessing. I understand that it also means you may get to kill an enemy before he gets another attack it and so on through the encounter. Is that better than a +1 to hit (nimble blade?) Is that better than a reroll for your big attack (elven precision?) Is it better than +2 damage on your attack throughout the combat (backstabber?) If it is better than any of these, it should be acquired sooner than level 6.

Yes, for first round it is normally a move/melee attack or range attack/move but being able to outright kill an opponent or at least make him bloodied, and that for the next player to kill it, or burn an action point and stike again. If I open with a melee attack, and I have combat adv on him I normally open up with nimble blade, then action point and use torturous strike. On average that combo deals 23.5 damage at first level, which should be able to destroy most opponents at that level or at least think twice about messing with you.

On a semi-related note having one less opponent to deliver damage to you it would also serve less of a need for toughness, as well.

I honestly don't think that improved init is better then nimble blade, as having +1 to attack is prety huge. and I can't tell you how many times elven precision has saved the party. But you do bring a valid point about the consistant + damage of backstabber.

doing basic sneak attack damage calculations my quick math tells me that 2d6+3 that you would get on the first round would average out to 9 damage. with the +2 bonus of backstabber it would stretch out to 5 combat advantage rounds. Since most of the battles take more then 5 rounds and given how easy it is to gain combat advantage, I would have to concur backstabber is better in the damage perspective.

So for level 4 feat, number crunching optimization/ solid damage over time I would say that backstabber is better, for survivability and initial burst damage improved initiative outshines.
Awesome build, man, I really love it. Tried something similar recently, but it's item-dependent and is an unfortunate reversion to 3.x CharOpt styles.

Your basic build, but a Dagger Master instead, wielding 2 Wraithblade daggers. Crit on 18-20, and applies Sneak Attack damage every time you crit against someone you have Combat Advantage on. Think about this for a sec, if you get 6 hits you will average 1 crit, which will translate to 12[W]+(7*Str)+5d8+3d6 (from Hunter's Quarry). The [W] here are d6, not d4, due to Meditation of the Blade. The numbers get REALLY dumb when you get to the upper end of the teamwork attack scale. To take your optimum condition from before:

3 rerolls, hit on a 2 (achieved via the party assisting your stirke), avg 76 hits. Of these, an average of 11.6 will crit, for argument's sake I'll round down to 11. That will work out to an old-school Roll of Thunder, 152[W]+(87*Str)+55d8+3d6. I'll assume 24 Str here for a +7 bonus, averaging 532+609+247.5+10.5=1399 damage on the sequence, NOT counting any outside damage bonuses (for example, the enhancement bonus on the Wraithblade giving 1d6 per plus on a crit)

EDIT: Forgot that you get to apply Sneak Attack once per round outside of the Wraithblade as well, so you can add +5d8+Str (Avg. 29.5) to each of those.
Awesome build, man, I really love it. Tried something similar recently, but it's item-dependent and is an unfortunate reversion to 3.x CharOpt styles.

Your basic build, but a Dagger Master instead, wielding 2 Wraithblade daggers. Crit on 18-20, and applies Sneak Attack damage every time you crit against someone you have Combat Advantage on. Think about this for a sec, if you get 6 hits you will average 1 crit, which will translate to 12[W]+(7*Str)+5d8+3d6 (from Hunter's Quarry). The [W] here are d6, not d4, due to Meditation of the Blade. The numbers get REALLY dumb when you get to the upper end of the teamwork attack scale. To take your optimum condition from before:

3 rerolls, hit on a 2 (achieved via the party assisting your stirke), avg 76 hits. Of these, an average of 11.6 will crit, for argument's sake I'll round down to 11. That will work out to an old-school Roll of Thunder, 152[W]+(87*Str)+55d8+3d6. I'll assume 24 Str here for a +7 bonus, averaging 532+609+247.5+10.5=1399 damage on the sequence, NOT counting any outside damage bonuses (for example, the enhancement bonus on the Wraithblade giving 1d6 per plus on a crit)

EDIT: Forgot that you get to apply Sneak Attack once per round outside of the Wraithblade as well, so you can add +5d8+Str (Avg. 29.5) to each of those.

I'm not sure what the big deal is about Wraithblades.
They seem to cost a lot more for the nearly equivalent return of a Vicious weapon on a critical hit.

Assuming lvl 30, the Backstabber feat, and a +6 Wraithblade... you are doing 6D6+5D8 bonus damage on a critical. I believe that's 76 max extra damage.

Same lvl 30, regardless of Backstabber, and a +6 Vicious weapon (which, might I add again is much much cheaper)... you are doing 6D12 bonus damage on a critical. That's 72 max damage. Not a huge difference in my books. Plus, if you don't have backstabber for the Wraithblade, you are pretty much gimping yourself (though most rogues will take backstabber).


Now one thing that would definitely swing the damage more in the favor of the wraithblades is that CustServ has consistantly (for once) ruled that Sneak Attack damage is normally maximized on a critical hit.
But in the case of the Wraithblades, this particular sneak attack damage is only happening BECAUSE of the critical hit. Therefore, according to the rules it would NOT be maximized.

It's a nifty item, don't get me wrong, but doesn't seem to be worth the cost. *shrug*
At 30th, wraithblades are about even with vicious blades, or even with the frost/lasting frost/wintertouched route, when using most attacks.

But with assassin's point they give an extra 6d6 + 2*(5d8).

They aren't brokenly good - just preferable once you have assassin's point.
A big thing the Wraithblade does is for a Brutal Scoundrel, allowing the Str bonus to be applied to damage a second time. That ends up supplying a huge chunk of the additional damage. Experimenting with a Minotaur crit-based dagger rogue, but it seems a bit too chance-based to be relied upon.
Could someone please post the full description of Wraith Blades? It sounds like they won't be useful for this build since it isn't a daggermaster so doesn't make exceptional use of critical hits. Any suggestions to improve this build? I'm looking for critiques to improve it.
A big thing the Wraithblade does is for a Brutal Scoundrel, allowing the Str bonus to be applied to damage a second time. That ends up supplying a huge chunk of the additional damage. Experimenting with a Minotaur crit-based dagger rogue, but it seems a bit too chance-based to be relied upon.

Unless you are doing it for RP reasons (if so, no worries!), Bugbears make much better Brutal Scoundrels.

+2 Strength AND Dexterity. Plus Oversized Weapons, like the Minotaur... plus an extra per encounter racial sneak attack-like ability that scales with level.

Yum.
Unless you are doing it for RP reasons (if so, no worries!), Bugbears make much better Brutal Scoundrels.

+2 Strength AND Dexterity. Plus Oversized Weapons, like the Minotaur... plus an extra per encounter racial sneak attack-like ability that scales with level.

Yum.

Nah, I've just played one too many Taurens and killed one too many Bugbears, I didn't even see it. Thanks for pointing it out!
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