Clawing your way to the top: The Intelligent Druid's Guide

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Clawing your way to the top: The Intelligent Druid's Handbook


IMAGE(http://heroes.ag.ru/h5/races/sylvan/jpg/HeroesV_Sylvan_04u_Druid_Elder.jpg)



This guide is a work in progress.

Mission Statement

This guide is about playing intelligently, about OPTIMIZING your class options, about exploiting the internal mathematics of the game to your advantage. I'm not going to mince words. I'm not giving points to Role-Playing when it's undeserved. I'm not going to list ridiculous options. This is an optimization thread.

Let's get started.

Introduction

The druid's role is that of a controller. You will not be the most damaging combatant nor are you the most resilient nor the most adept at buffing or restoring hit points. However, through intelligent use of your abilities, you can control the battlefield so as to make the your allies' jobs much easier.

As per the hybridization of roles in the PHB2, in addition to your role as a controller, you can fulfill the role of either a secondary striker or a secondary leader. The most salient characteristic of a druid is the ability Wild Shape. This lets you change your form as a minor action into that of an animal. The animal you choose has no effect on game mechanics (a wolf is a panther is a bear), and as such if you choose a bird you can not fly, if you choose a rat you are not tiny, etc. Functionally and mechanistically, all uses of the wild shape power are the same.
Some of your powers (those that have the beast form keyword) can only be used while wildshaped. Similarly, those that don't have the beast form keyword, can only be used while not wildshaped.

Playstyle: The true strength of the druid lies in versatility. You can jump into the melee fray and control anything that's getting out of hand, charge an enemy to peel them off your casters, then shift out (and I do mean shift :D ) of beast form and throw out AoE control. I will discuss playstyle more throughout the guide and in a gameplay section at the very end.

Rating system:
Red: No.
Purple: Limited situational use.
Black: Unremarkable; why not take a blue instead?
Blue: Great option, if you can't take sky blue, take this.
Sky Blue: Optimal.

Sources:
AV - Adventurer's Vault
MP - Martial Power
PHB - Player's Handbook
PHB 2 - Player's Handbook 2

References & Formatting Ideas:

Treantmonk's exceptional guide for controllers, hear him wax poetic about the virtues of control.
Lordduskblade's guides

Acknoweldgements:

Everyone who posts suggestions/corrections/etc. in the thread. I'm greatly indebted to your hard work and I will be naming you individually at the bottom of this guide. This is as much the work of many as it is my own.
Aspects:

OVERVIEW: THE PREDATOR DRUID (Controller/Striker) Secondary stat requirement: Dexterity
The Predator Druid is a fast agile melee controller. You gain a +1 bonus to speed while in beast form. All your powers which use the Dexterity modifier use it either as a shift, speed bonus, attack bonus, or damage bonus. The predator druid bonuses all occur in beast form and the Predator Aspect is designed to be partial to beast form to take advantage of these bonuses as well as the extra speed boost.

OVERVIEW: THE GUARDIAN DRUID (Controller/Leader) Secondary stat requirement: Constitution
The Guardian Druid appears to be designed to be a well-balanced controller with slight buffing and healing; it turns the Predator does this just as well (read below). You can choose to replace your AC bonus from DEX/INT with your CON modifier instead. All your powers which use the Constitution modifier use it either for pushes, dmg, AC, or heals. The majority of these do not occur while in beast form; as such the Guardian druid will spend less time in beast form than the Predator Druid.

ANALYSIS & COMPARISON:
Though you are forced to choose an aspect (Predator or Guardian) which is governed in its bonuses by a secondary stat (DEX or CON), the majority of a druid's powers have no secondary stat bonus and so it is possible to take a variety of powers regardless of aspect. In this way, the Predator Druid gains more versatility by broadening the types of powers chosen and their respective effects. The Guardian Druid gains some powers to be able to control better in melee.

OBSERVATIONS AS TO BALANCE BETWEEN THE ASPECTS (Read if you care about game mechanics):

Mechanically, being in melee, the availability of Combat Advantage (CA) to the Druid gives him an advantage over the casting Druid. A casting Druid can only hope to compare by taking the Distant Advantage feat and, even with the Distant Advantage feat, the Guardian Druid requires two allies to already be flanking the target (something which is problematic given the propensity of burst powers) in order to gain CA. A melee Druid needs only one ally to gain CA. In this way beast form druid powers are able to both enter the melee fray as well as peel errant enemies adjacent to your ranged allies, gaining CA in all these situations.

All Druid attacks are against Non-Armor Defenses (NADs) and given that the distribution of attacks vs. these NADs is equal for both the beast and non-beast forms, it is clear that the melee beast form powers are more immediately reliable. However, the non-beast form powers can catch up in their bursts (thus targetting multiple enemies and allowing multiple rolls) and their effects (occuring irrespective of a hit). The caster druid can pepper his arsenal with more reliable beast form techniques, as can the melee druid add variety and large area control with non-beast form techniques.

Since both druids are able to gain CA from melee and both are able to use spells while not in beast form, both Aspects are equally able to perform the controlling functions of a druid. Interestingly however, the Predator druid gets a bonus which makes him a better melee combatant (+1 Speed) while the Guardian druid simply gets the ability to use his CON instead of his DEX/INT score for AC (this is so that Guardian druids can pump CON without sacrificing AC). Two druids therefore, who have switched equal CON and DEX scores, would have the same AC, but the predator would move 1 square faster. The faster druid has an advantage in all spells except those solely limited to CON. Since the CON derived spells are actually pretty poor (see below), this means that Predator druids are actually mechanically superior.
ABILITY SCORES

Unless otherwise stated I always assume a 22 point buy.

WIS: Wisdom is the most important stat for a druid. All your attacks rely on WIS, both in melee and ranged combat, in beast and non-beast forms. Your hit is your most important trait as it allows you to use your control powers when they are needed. It also adds to your dps. At level 1 you should have 18 post racial modifiers, so this will mean a 16 pre-modifiers assuming you take a class with +2 WIS (which you should)

DEX: Your secondary stat as a Predator druid, tertiary as a Guardian druid. This boosts your Predator-specific powers as well as boosting your AC as a non-Guardian druid. Ideally, as a Predator you'd like to end up with an 18 in this as well, 16 at least.

CON: Your secondary stat as a Guardian druid, tertiary as a Predator. This boosts Guardian-specific powers as well as boosting Guardian AC and HP/surges in both forms. You can deal with a 16 in this stat as a guardian, seeing as you're can choose to be keeping out of the melee action more often. For a predator druid, Con will help your FORT defense and your HP/Surges

INT/STR: WIS/DEX/CON or WIS/CON/DEX depending on your aspect are pretty much all you need. They allow you the greatest versatility in powers and boost all your NADs. There's really no good reason to take anything else. WotC seems to be shying away from stat reqs for Feats so if there's a feat in the future that you'd want, it probably won't have prereqs unless it's class specific. Of STR/INT/CHA, STR/INT are probably the most useful for Predator/Guardian druids respectively as STR can help grab in melee as well as offer MC options, and boosts your Fort if you don't take CON. Similarly INT will boost REF for Guardian druids.

CHA: CHA is fairly undesirable. Just wild shape into a puppy, isn't that automatically 18 CHA?
Races:

Predator Druid Races:

ELVES: Awesome. Nature/Perception bonus? Check. Already super-fast? Check. Reroll for accuracy on demand, either for DPS or Control? Check. Longbow proficiency in case of Ranger Multiclass? Check. Look good in a natural setting? Check. If I could supersede sky-blue I would. Unfortunately the CharOp police are strict about these things...I may have already said too much.

Razorclaw Shifters: A solid sky blue class. Great racial encounter power, very useful for a brute force druid that prefers to stay in melee all the time. Razorclaws have stat bonuses in all the right places; overall not as good as the elf, but a great race for Predators; also they're the most damaging druid by far as they can take both "Ferocious Tiger Form" and "Blurring Claws" (these untyped bonuses stack) for +4dmg on attacks with CA. This is the equivalent of changing your d8 at-will to a d16, other druids can only increase theirs to a d12. Shifters are the most damaging druids by far.

Humans: Not as fast as elves but they pick up an extra at-will (great for a druid, cover all your NAD targets) and an extra feat (great with PHB2). Also their +1 to all NADs is juicy. Their AC suffers because of a lower DEX.

Dwarves: You're slow. In fact this class can only really be blue if you take the Fast Runner which gives you +2 movement when charging. Your fort score is good though, but not better than a Human's.

Longtooth Shifters, Devas: The Deva reroll is good and so is the Longtooth racial regen, as is the Longtooth damage if that's what gets you your jollies. Really, though? This is an optimization thread.


Guardian Druid Races:

Dwarves: Most people would think Dwarves would by sky blue for this, but the 5 speed in hide armor with absolutely no incentive to take heavy armor (waste of feats given you won't boost your AC higher than what you could with CON) is really quite substandard. Also the lack of a good multiclass with the CON helps to keep the Dwarf unimpressive.

Elves: With a boost to your tertiary and primary it's incredibly easy to get an 18/16/15 WIS/CON/DEX for this class. Plus you have 7 speed, plus you get training in bows, plus elven accuracy, plus nature and perception bonuses. The Elf is a better option than the Dwarf unless you want 18 CON (which is really only justifiable for AC, and even then it's questionable).

Humans: Just as good as the elf in this role. Humans aren't as fast but they pick up an extra at-will (great for a druid, cover all your NAD bases), an extra feat (great with PHB2), and have +1 to all NADs (this more than makes up for a starting 18/16/13 WIS/CON/DEX). They are the most versatile druids compared to any other race. I would almost consider the human sky blue for this role. In fact, I think I will.

Razorclaw Shifters: Probably comparable to dwarves, they lack the nature/perception bonus and speed and reroll of elves, though their bloodied defense and speed make up for the reroll and passive 7 speed given the defensive nature of the Guardian.

Longtooth Shifters, Devas: Meh. The Deva reroll is good and so is the Longtooth racial regen, but the damage component is kind of unnecessary given your role as a controller/leader. Isn't this an optimization thread? Why are you looking at black options?



Overall Stand-out Classes:

Elves: Amazing. Optimal Predators. Great Guardians.

Humans: Their 4 at-wills and extra feat make you the most versatile druid in any aspect. Great class.

Razorclaw Shifters: Not as tactically sound as elves or humans due to a lack of options. Because of their speed+AC per encounter racial, Razorclaws are excellent in terms of brute force play. They are also the highest damaging druids by far.
FEATS

Heroic

PHB1:
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Action surge For a Human, this is great when you're "going nova"

Combat Reflexes This will increase your chance to hit with your beast form control spells against adjacent oppoenents given you can use your beast powers as melee basic attacks. It's a decent feat but in general you don't want to be surrounded; there are better feats.

Defensive Mobility Good if you want to be charging from person to person but not really necessary with a good speed or the Fast Run feat. (In both instances you would just shift away and then charge). In terms of simply running away, this isn't that useful since you already can shift as a minor action to go from beast to human form.

Durable If you need this you should perhaps think about changing your playstyle. It's not a bad feat, but why waste it on this?

Elven Precision Statistically this is simply a +10% chance to hit (had you hit with the first one you wouldn't reroll). Hit is hard to come by but this has diminishing returns over multiple samplings the higher your hit chance is already.

Fast Runner Great feat. Allows you to catch almost everything. At a certain point a Predator's speed becomes slightly redundant but when you need it, it's always there for you. This is great for not worrying about AoO when you have to charge peel an enemy off your clothies since you can essentially move between any two points that are Run speed +3 apart. (shift the first square, charge the rest)

Improved Initiative Don't take it. There's a Paragon feat (Stalking Panther Form) that gives you this as well as +5 stealth and feat bonuses don't stack. I include this entry in case someone was considering taking it.

Powerful Charge Overlap with "Enraged Bear Form" and they don't stack; they stack! The bonuses are untyped! Your charges roll the equivalent of d16 at-wills instead of d8s! (the bull rush is useless since you're not stacking Strength)

Toughness Never bad but you shouldn't rely on it.

Wintertouched + Lasting Frost Combo Really? Are you really going to waste two feats on this? You can't spam cold attacks enough to make this worthwhile. If you think you can't live without this take Distant Advantage from PHB2 and stop crying. (Seriously though, this is only useful in conjunction with Chill Wind spamming, which I feel is not even worth it with CA - see Chill Wind below - why would you spend two feats to make a sub-par caster at-will not even the best choice amongst the caster at-wills?)


PHB2:
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Auspicious Lineage Why are you a Deva? This is an optimization thread.

Blurring Claws You don't attack with melee weapons unfortunately.

Combat Medic Good. You're the most mobile of your team. Take it and let the cleric run catch his breath.

Coordinated Explosion: This talent is basically conceding that your area attacks are going to hit your friends, so you may as well target your enemies better too. Not bad, but most of your powerful area effects should have an "effect", that is, they should occur regardless of whether you hit the target or not; there are better feats than this one.

Distant Advantage: Given your party composition this could be black. It requires two allies to be flanking your target. Also, this means it is only really useful against single-target ranged spells, while as most of yours are AoE. Hit is always good, but I would think twice about this. (Take it above a black feat though)

[INDENT]Edit: Distant advantage requires some coordination on the part of yourself and your melee when it comes to AoE attacks. To avoid hitting your allies they must flank diagonally (since AoEs are all square). Diagonal flanking however is inefficient because an enemy can escape in one shift. Square flanking requires a minimum of two shifts to not incur AoO attacks. This actually adds a welcome extra level of coordination to the game. When you're going to AoE, tell your melee to flank diagonally for a turn, then they can go back to square flanking.[/INDENT]

Implement Expertise: Best feat bar none. Hit is what makes you useful. Remember this works on all your attacks (they all have the Implement keyword).

[indent] Note: It is a common house-rule (as far as these fora would suggest) that everyone gets this feat for free, if that is an option for you, I would certainly take it.[/indent]

Improved Grab: Grab is good...but you'll probably have to run off somewhere to save a teammate. Slow is good enough to keep things in range of your defender. Also, why are you pumping strength?

Melee Training: Your beast form attacks can be used as AoOs, you only need this to AoO in human form, which is not useful since your human attacks won't impose conditions like your beast form ones will.

Timely Respite: Not horrible but you don't have unlimited feats. Take something else.

Wild Senses: No. The paragon +Ini druid feat is better.

Druid specific

Enraged Bear Form: Charges are your bread and butter, take it. Moreover its untyped bonus stacks with Powerful Charge.

Ferocious Tiger Form: Your role is not to damage but hopefully you'll have combat advantage most of the time, and this is equivalent to increasing your damage dice from d8 to d12. I'll explain in a future strategy section how damage is a form of meta-control when you force your enemy to control you or heal your target. You can take this, there aren't that many feats.

Primal Fury: Situational +1, but there aren't many +1s to hit. It shouldn't be one of your first heroic feats, but you'll likely have room for it.

Primal Instinct: If you're a guardian druid, take it. It's like getting Imp. Ini for one group member per encounter.


Martial Power: (requires Multiclass in a Martial Class)
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Any Class:
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Martial Alacrity: This initiative doesn't stack with any of the other feat bonuses and the shift bonus is pretty paltry on a first turn. I think their attempt is to let you set things up at the start, except because of initiative order your enemy may not be fully deployed and this kinda falls flat.

Martial Freedom: Slowing a druid is devastating. Unfortunately it requires Endurance training which is a waste of a good skill, or a waste of a feat; this it requires on top of MC into a martial class...
It is good if you somehow have room for it. Your first save will be at 80% chance success, the following at 96% success.


Fighter:
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Deep Gash: If you're a Guardian druid MC fighter...wait. If you're a Guardian Druid MC Fighter you should probably not be on the optimization boards.

Dirty Fighting: It's purely for damage and requires a condition which you don't really need. Skip it.

Offensive Resilience: +1 is nice but there are limits...you need to be bloodied and have expended a healing surge for this. Fighters are often in this position, you shouldn't be.

Opportunistic Accuracy: It's only for AoO but it's still pretty good.

Reaping Blade: Shift is nice but you shouldn't be the one concentrating on dropping enemies per se. Do your damage and make your point when you need to, but let someone else worry about dropping things.

Take Measure: You shouldn't rely on crits and you shouldn't be in the line of fire so much as to need this. If you're being targetted, get out.



Ranger:
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Brutal Accuracy: This would be great for when you needed on-call burst except that your version of Hunter's Quarry only lasts a round and if you wanted the extra damage from this feat you'd have to expend Accuracy at the same time.

Camouflage: This doesn't stack with Stalking Panther Form. Skip it.

Hunter's Aim: You can only use this once when you use your per encounter Hunter's Quarry. It's good if your opponent is trying to avoid damage and you want to burst him down that last little bit, but otherwise you're blowing Hunter's Quarry unnecessarily.

Predatory Action: This could be good as part of your nova setup except that it requires you expend a standard action before you spend your action point. Depending on the bonuses conferred from the spending of the action point, this could be amazing or just good. Worth having in your arsenal though.

Prime Strike: Great. Increases your chance to charge (because you're sorely lacking on +hit to charge at this point right?) those silly ranged classes that think they're immune.



Rogue:
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Dirty Fighting: It's purely for damage and requires a condition which you don't really need. Skip it

Speedy Response: If you're going to provoke an AoO, it may as well help you. This is pretty low on the list of necessary feats, but it is a good one.








Paragon

PHB1:
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Action Recovery: You could do better. Not horrible though.

Arcane Reach: I don't think you have enough close attack powers to make this worthwhile. It is a great feat for other classes though.

Back to the Wall: Too situational

Blood Thirst: You're not really a striker, unless you have everything else, you don't really need this.

Combat Anticipation: Prevents you from being controlled by ranged classes, irrespective of what they target!

Danger Sense: Wow. This plus your +4 Ini from the PHB2 feat is quite ridiculous.

Defensive Advantage: Not bad, but Defensive Mobility is strictly better.

Evasion: Not horrible. A lot of AoEs target REF.

Fleet-Footed: No. You get this with "Stalking Panther Form" which also gives +5 perception. They don't stack.

Great Fortitude: Great for a Predator druid. Don't get it as a Guardian druid.

Imp. Second Wind: Never bad, but you shouldn't really need it. Take something else before this.

Lightning Reflexes: Great for Guardian, not for Predator

Running Shot: Awesome. Makes you just as mobile a caster as a beast.

Uncanny Dodge: The equivalent of Defensive Mobility in this tier but strictly worse. You shouldn't need it, but it's good to have.


PHB2:
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Agile Opportunist: Any chance for an extra at-will attack is amazing!

BeastHideShifting: Nice. Reduce all damage by 2 while in your rage. This is great. It would be Sky Blue except you shouldn't be taking damage.

Paragon Defenses: Nah, take Fortitude/Reflex +2 over this.

Reserve Maneuver: Haha! The anti-rules nazi DM Feat!

Vexing Flanker: Allows you to give CA to a 3rd melee or a ranged attacker without Distant Advantage.

Druid Specific

Hunting Wolf Form: Wow. Fleet-footed PLUS a +5 check to arguably the most important skill.

Quick Wild Shape: You can only Wild Shape once per round, but not having to worry about an expended minor action is worth this.

Stalking Panther Form: Both good bonuses. Initative is important and you didn't take it from Imp. Ini. +5 stealth is a lot better with the new rules.


Martial Power: (requires Multiclass in a Martial Class)
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Any Class:
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Bloody Tenacity: You shouldn't need it, but, if you're a human, you may as well take it if you have room.



Fighter:
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Avenging Action: Gain an action point at an opportune time. Ideally your teammates shouldn't be dying but hey, things happen.

Chainmail Agility: Why would you take Chainmail if it removes your DEX bonus to AC as you level up? For a guardian this is not bad. Then again, you're a Guardian Druid MC Fighter, it's all uphill from there.

Reckless Attacker: If you have room for it it's not horrible (increases burst); but relying on crits is dubious.




Ranger:
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Hunter's Advantage: This is the better version of Brutal Accuracy. Again you'll only be able to do it once per encounter but at least you're sure sure it will work.

Hunter's Resurgence: You shouldn't be thinking about dropping enemies; or wasting healing surges for that matter. Still, if you need to use your healing surge, this is a relatively reliable way of getting one assuming you keep your enemies' hp hovering low.

Preternatural Senses: This could be blue if you don't value perception that highly. Still, it makes your perception fairly godlike.



Rogue:
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Prime Slayer: You're very often going to be the closest to your targets given all your charging. Moreover this practically guarantees you +6 dmg onto a charge if you take Powerful Charge and Enraged Bear Form. Your at-will on a charge is now a d20 instead of a d8. You should probably still pretend you're a controller though, people may get jealous.

Roundabout Charge: This plus Prime Slayer above single-handedly put the Rogue MC on the map. This feat allows you to gain CA against any enemy adjacent to an ally since it allows you to charge to a flanking space instead of the nearest space.




POWERS

At-Will:
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Caster At-Wills
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Call of the Beast: Most people don't understand how to use this power. First it targets Will, which is excellent. Second, it's a mass CA denier. If your tank is getting swarmed this spell will reduce everyone's chance to hit him by 10%. Let's see anyone else do that with an at-will. On top of that, if they don't go for the tank, it's on average higher damage than any other at will and it scales. It's between this and a vs. FORT at-will for those who took two beast at-wills.

[INDENT]Further discussion on CotB: My interpretation of the RAI is that were you to cast this on your team mate, he would have to hit his closest enemy, just like your enemies have to hit their closest enemy. Several have pointed out though that this is not RAW. Ultimately it's up to your DM and WotC to decide, but my ranking is based on this and I wanted to make that clear.[/INDENT]

Chill Wind: Crap. It targets Fort which is bad enough. On top of that, it doesn't scale with level (no +WIS modifier to the damage roll). So you have an AoE slide 1 that can't hit melee classes with no scaling? Yeah, um...thanks for that.

[INDENT]Further discussion on Chill Wind: Despite the condescending tone above, I've had some earnest discussion on this forum about my dislike for Chill Wind; my argument is as follows: Melee classes have high FORT defense. If melee classes are on your tank, all is right with the world. Go into beast form and reliably (vs. REF) slide them without accidentally hitting of your teammates. If melee classes are on your ranged, a slide 1 is a far inferior peel to a slow, especially against a melee (even worse when the slide is vs. FORT and the slow is vs. REF). Using Chill Wind against ranged classes (who have low FORT) is fairly useless unless they're within 1 square of your melee; again you're better off slowing them.[/INDENT]

Flame Seed: Great. It's effectively an AoE that doesn't harm your allies! It targets Reflex which is not bad.

Storm Spike: Highest single-target damage at-will you have. Shoot it at someone beside your tank who can't move anyway. Profit. Choose between this and Flame Seed if you're already have a non-REF targetting caster at-will.

Thorn Whip: This is your vs. Fort caster power. It's not great since movement effects are better on melee classes and they usually have high FORT because of high STR/CON. Still, it scales with damage and is useful. It's between this and Call of the Beast for you guys who already have two beast form powers (since beast form powers target REF).

Beast Form
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Pounce: Great for giving your allies +2 if you're about to leave flanking to go rescue some poor caster. Also great while damage spamming to increase your party's overall hit. Thirdly useful to prep your next attack if flanking isn't available. (Allows you to single-target flank). Targets REF, good.

Grasping Claws: Imposes a status effect, that's already enough for blue. Imposes slow, an anti-melee status effect...I bet it targets FORT. What? REF you say!? Get it. Oh yeah, it's also the best peel in the game. And it can be used as a basic melee attack. Godly.

Savage Rend: It's this or Pounce for your 2nd beast At-Will. Moves target and doesn't target FORT!?!? That should be Sky Blue!! It should be but Pounce played right can be more useful (especially considering you already have the godly Grasping Claws). This is a good warrior peel but the lack of slow means they can charge your caster then next round. Savage Rend vs. Pounce. It depends on your playstyle.


Heroic Tier
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Lvl. 1 Encounter:
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Cull the Herd: Targets WILL which is excellent. Moves the target, also great. Highest single-target damage of the lvl1s. Great peel.

Darting Bite: You need to be at least partially surrounded which is never good. High damage because of the two attack rolls, and you get to shift after. Not bad but you shouldn't set yourself up for these things. If you want to shift away for some reason, you should do it before and then charge someone, not expend your standard action on this. Take Cull the Herd.

Frost Flash: Immobilize is good but this targets FORT which bad if you're targetting targets against whom immobilize is actually worthwhile. Guardians get extra damage? Do you even know your role?

Twisting Vines: Pretty sweet, creates little areas of vines around each target (i.e. this could create a 5x5 square of vines against a full 3x3 squadron). Great for stopping marauding armies. Armies of 9 or less that is, that travel in squares.



Lvl. 1 Daily:
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Faerie Fire: AoE, targets Will, slows, grants CA, requires save to end. That's like a mass Savage Frenzy + Pounce that targets Will. Best AoE peel for a long long time. Oh yeah and when people save they take 3d6 damage. Sign me up.
Oh by the way it grants CA and does damage on a miss. Mmmhmm I'm already writing it down in my spell book, shhh.

Fires of Life: Mediocre damage, targets Ref. Great effect upon targets dying, works even without the Guardian option! This is a good minion killer. Otherwise it's not that great. Remind me again why you read past Faerie Fire?

Savage Frenzy: This is a good attack but why are you surrounded? You shouldn't be in a situation where you would warrant the use of this power. It's an awesome mass peel though. You should have stopped reading at Faerie Fire though, this is much worse

Wind Prison: A superior mass peel to Savage Frenzy supposing that prone requires a move action. This effectively denies enemies swarming your cloth-wearing buddy the ability to follow him as long as getting up from prone is still a move action. Otherwise this is black. Yeah I can't really see this through the drunken stupor of Faerie Fire.



Lvl. 2 Utility:
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Barksin Great for a guardian druid. So-so for a Predator.

Fleet Pursuit At a certain point all your speed stalking is going to seem ridiculous. Still, in a huge battlefield with multiple attackers and shifting/difficult terrain obstacles this is great.

Obscuring Mist Someone did something wrong and you have to run away from the archers. Hang your head in shame.

Skittering Sneak One of the few instances where I allow Role-playing to take precedence over game mechanics. Neither Barkskin nor Fleet Pursuit is so invaluable that you should take them over this great scouting/prison escape mechanism. Loads of things you can do with this.

Lvl. 3 Encounter:
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Battering Claws Solid double-peel. There's no reason to get this though considering Predator's Flurry is strictly better.

Call Lightning Comparable to Call the Beast except it damages your friend, and it targets REF instead of WILL. Who cares if it does a little more damage? Damage is a reward for a control job well done. Don't spend an encounter power on this when it's inferior to an at-will.

Predator's Flurry Better double-peel than Battering Claws.

Tundra Wind Blast 3 that knocks prone. Not bad but it targets FORT. Take it if you don't want Predator's Flurry.



Lvl. 5 Daily:
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Hobbling Rend Double-slow with a save. Miss and it's just a double-slow. An on-command double-slow is pretty nice. I guess they can't all be Faerie Fire.

Primal Wolverine Ongoing damage? Aren't you a controller? Wait, the hit-independent effect is also damage?! Don't sit there and take it. You're a druid. Shift and get out of there.

Roar of Terror Blast 5 vs Will. Nice. Psychic damage? Also nice. Daze until saved? Good damage? Half-damage and daze on a miss? I think Faerie Fire has a friend.

Wall of Thorns Hooray a Wall! No hit necessary! 8 long, 4 high, sustain minor, provides cover, blocks LoS, difficult terrain, deals damage + ongoing. That's pretty solid.



Lvl. 6 Utility:
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Black Harbinger Another RP over mechanics power. Great flying scout.

Camouflage Cloak Decent peel. Also grants AoE CA. You can use this as a nova prep for yourself or an ally. Additionally it's an encounter power. Definitely sky blue.

Chant of Sustenance Very very good, especially when you get more zones/walls. You can hold off until later though. Camo Cloak will be more useful for a long time.

Stalker's Eyes There are three Sky Blue powers here. Move along.

Note: Given the three Sky blue powers to choose from I feel it necessary to differentiate them a little more. The Harbinger is purely for RP scout/escape purposes. The Cloak is great in combat as a pre-nova for an AoEer or for yourself. The Chant is the ultimate weather control spell but you can wait on it until you get more zones.



Lvl. 7 Encounter:
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Feast of Fury Purely for damage.

Latch On This is a candidate for "Overpowered" status because at high levels it will be an inescapable grab. It is effectively a permanent immobilize as long as you are willing to sacrifice your mobility as well.

Swirling Winds Very interesting in that you can target the enemy with the lowest Reflex and bring his friends along for free. The Guardian power here is crap. I notice a trend...

Tremor Great AoE peel if prone still requires a movement action to get up from.



Lvl. 9 Daily:
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Entangle Finally! 9x9 immobilize until saved. The effect creates terrain that slows ONLY ENEMIES until the end of the encounter. Additionally you crit on rolls of 18-20 while in the zone. It's the love-child of Faerie Fire, Savage Rend, and the Daggermaster path.

Feral Mauling -10% to-hit on one target until saved. Single-turn effect on a miss. This is decent but not when Entangle is available.

Primal Wolf WotC has this obsession with wolves and the prone status condition, oh well. Until the end of the encounter you inflict prone status on anything you hit, and you get CA from anything that's prone. This is a very good daily, I don't know if I would take it over Entangle though.

Sunbeam Good peel, especially against casters. Too bad there are two sky blue powers in this group.



Lvl. 10 Utility:
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Armor of the Wild Blue for Guardians, Red for Predators. If your tank dies you can throw this on and combined with your AoO Savage Rends, you can show him how to tank. Otherwise...why are you taking damage?

Feywild Sojourn Invincibility for a turn in which you can surge and wild shape + a 10 square teleport. Incredible. What?! It's an encounter power?! Hahah Eladrin, eat your heart out.

Roots of Rescue I get the mental image of someone pushing your friend off a cliff and roots erupting from the cliff to catch him. This is too situational to be that useful though. Also you have Feywild Sojourn, maybe you can find a new friend in the Feywild. At least he won't get himself pushed off cliffs.

Winter Storm Minor persisting 5x5 difficult terrain which grants cold vulnerability 5. Apart from granting you special favours from the Wintertouched crowd, it's also a great control power. *Sigh*, another category with two sky blues.




Paragon Tier
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Lvl. 13 Encounter:
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Claws of Retribution: Mini melee nova. Jump into the fray, drop this, get out. Slow/slide/pounce anyone you want.

Expose Weakness: Interesting mechanic for making something hittable. The Guardian option is crap as usual.

Thunder Crash: Range 5 stun. It's made against FORT which is actually useful since stuns are particularly effective against casters.

Tidal Surge: This is a 5x5 higher damage Wizard's Thunderwave. Not horrible but it targets FORT which is a strong defense on anyone worth sliding.



Lvl. 15 Daily:
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Baleful Polymorph: Wow. Stun vs. Will until saved and you can put the enemy in your pocket. Glorious.

Call Lightning Storm: A movable 3x3 zone that slows, sustain minor. You can indefinitely kite with this.

Devouring Ice: Single-target Immobilize vs. FORT? Really? Is this supposed to compare to either of the two above?

Revitalizing Pounce: Minor trinket; remove anything on you that doesn't prevent you from casting this in the first place.

Slashing Claws: Oooh, dps, how unimpressive!



Lvl. 16 Utility:
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Howl of the Wild: Hey look, I have one of the best heals in the game and I don't need to be a Guardian druid. Wait...Guardians had a purpose right? (With a good healer or a leader multiclass, you should take the Wall over this)

Insect Plague: Insubstantial and fly on-command (take half damage and ignore terrain effects). Squeeze through practically anything with no movement penalty. Keeps you very mobile.

Primal Restoration: Umm...worse than Howl in almost every way. Sure it has the potential to heal more but the range is smaller and it expends everyone's healing surge. It can however cure status effects; but it still depends on you calling a huddle and waiting for the dwarf to get in range. Depending on your group composition this could be alright.

Wall of Stone: The stand-out of the bunch. Wall 12, height 6. Solid, 100 hit points per square. No need to sustain. Completely take two adjacent enemies out of the fight! Incredible. This sky blue agglomeration tactic is really getting annoying WotC, spread 'em out! Still, it's better than having to choose from crappy options. Carry on.




Lvl. 17:
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Windstorm: Windstorm? Sounds like it targets FORT. Mmmhmm..and it pushes? Yep. Oh and it has a crappy Guardian power attached! Oh an it's only burst 1! Sweet a boosted Chill Wind, just what I wanted!

Lightning Cascade: Umm...double slow? Aren't we at level 17?

Scavenger's Prize: Amazing Predator option (because you really needed another excuse to pick the predator).

Shifting Rake: Ohnoes I can't shift! My lvl 1 at-will slow is superior to this given that it's an at will.



Lvl. 19:
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Entangling Thorns: 5x5 immobilization until saved, dps aftereffect, 1-turn immobilize on a miss. Sweet.

Lunge and Vanish: Ultimate nova starter. This is Camouflage Cloak on steroids.

Primal Bear: This is a very serious dps technique, saving vs. your REF is not easy. The +2 AC/FORT is not trivial either. (Oh and it favours the Predator Druid, in case you were wondering)

Winter Hailstorm: This is Winter Storm (lvl 19) on steroids.

Note: This is the exact same situation as the lvl 6 utilities. Your Hailstorm and Lunge are just dps versions of cloak and winter storm. I would have to say that since Cloak is Encounter, you should take either the Hailstorm or the Bear. Drop lvl 10 Storm if you took it and pick up the Feywild Sojourn.




Epic Tier
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Lvl. 22:
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Hmm...utilities...I forsee sky blues on the horizon.

Phantom Beast: Insubstantial and Phasing every other round (half damage and move through solid objects). You shouldn't be taking damage though so this is more of a hyper-mobility option.

Sky Talon: Flying beast form which only prevents you from using daily powers and boots your speed by 2. This is great.

Unseen Beast: CA + invisibility every other turn. Wow.

Unyielding Roots: 5x5 burst which negates forced movement on your team and gives everyone regen equal to your CON modifier. Minor sustain. (If you have a good healer or a leader multiclass, you don't really need this). Oh hey, a good power for the Guardian Druid. Let me jot that down somewhere.



Lvl. 23:
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Grasping Earth: Wow. 5x5 burst within 20 squares against WILL that gives me my DEX modifier as +hit?!? How broken is that. Oh yeah it's an encounter power. Sorry did I say Lunge was good Nova prep? Yeah I'm going to take that back, pop this, action point, drop a high dmg AoE, and then drop another high dmg AoE next turn. Controller/Striker...no kidding. If there are still any guardian druids out there send me a PM.

[indent]Edit: The +hit is only in beast form. This is still a great power but not as godly as I thought.[/indent]

Primal Roar: Good, but doesn't cut it for sky blue at lvl 23.

Stormburst: 5v5 Slow. Uhh...it's worse and does less damage than Faerie Fire.

Strength of the Hunt: You can spend a healing surge. Too bad there are no Guardians left, else an ally could also spend a healing surge. If they ever want to balance the Guardian Aspect they're going to have to put spells like this at way lower levels.




Lvl. 25:
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Ferocious Maul: Umm...a single-target a triple attack vs. all three NADs that at best imposes prone/weakened/dazed and does low lvl3 equivalent damage? I'll get right on that.

[indent] Edit: It appears the "Effect" line being excluded from the indent in the power description means it occurs even if the secondary and tertiary attacks do not hit. That means this is automatically 2d10 + WIS damage. Not horrible, but not where it should be.[/indent]

Fey Lure: A 7x7 vs. Will 3d6 AoE which allows me to slide any enemy 3 squares that I can sustain as a minor action? I don't know...Ferocious Maul looks so appetizing...

Primal Storm: 9x9 4d6 AoO that knocks everyone prone and allows me to make a vs. REF AoO to keep them prone if they try to stand up. Sustain Minor. Hmm...this is actually not as good as Fey Lure because enemies can crawl out of it and I can't affect those that never fell prone to begin with or weren't in the area to start.

Primal Tiger: 6d6 Burst 1 + DEX shift. Additionally AoO enemies that enter squares. This is really not that impressive. Sure the damage is high but the control is terrible for epic level.





Lvl. 27:
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Explosive Wind: Ooooh Wind, let me guess...vs. FORT slide effect! This is only useful after nova preparation with Grasping Earth.

Feral Whirlwind: Why are you surrounded again?

Leaping Rake: Daze + dmg to anyone I can slide to within a 1+DEX mod slide. Not bad.

Polar Blast: blast 5 immobilize with a fairly stale Guardian attachment.




Lvl. 29:
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Blinding Blizzard: 5x5 4d6 Blind (save ends) that allows me to roll vs. REF restrain anyone who starts/ends there turn in the zone. Sustain minor. Nice. Another Nova option for Grasping Earth.

Gaze of the Beast: vs. WILL attack to dominate (save ends)!

Lifeleech Thorns: 5x5 vs. REF Immobilize/Weaken/10dmg (save ends) + regain CON mod hit points for every target hit. Not bad.

Primal Archetype: +4 speed bonus, +2 atk vs. bloodied, shift 2 as a move action. That's pretty unimpressive for the "best form" of the game.

MULTICLASS OPTIONS

PHB1:
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Cleric: Excellent choice. It uses your primary stat so you're going to be able to take powers. Makes the Guardian aspect even more redundant (it's not like they're really much more of a leader than a Predator druid to begin with). On top of this you get excellent Paragon Paths: Divine Oracle, Warpriest.

Fighter: If the Implement as Weapon and Weapon as Implement issue ever gets decided, then Kensei could be sky blue. Otherwise this MC choice is bad.

Ranger: Excellent choice for the Predator Druid. Even better for an elf (you already have longbow proficiency). You'll be pumping DEX throughout and your WIS is obviously optimized so you can benefit from all utility/damage the archer has to offer. Also, the Battlefield Archer paragon path is your Kensei.

[indent]Edit: Apparently the Battlefield Archer is not your Kensei. It is there to taunt you with its "Archer fighting-style requirement". [/indent]

Rogue: This MC can be worth it for the 2 Martial Power Paragon Feats alone (see feats above). A predator druid will have enough DEX to make some of the rogue attacks worthwhile. None of the PPs are amazing though.

Wizard: The Spellstorm Paragon Path isn't horrible but it's nothing compared to the Cleric PP in the same vein. Also, you can never hit anything with INT. Not worth it.


PHB2:
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Avenger: The class feature basically nets you Elven Accuracy/encounter. You will be able to use most of the Avenger's powers given they use WIS as an attack. Also the Unveiled Visage PP lets you fly (i.e. ignore difficult terrain) and gain +2 to defenses on a charge. There are better options though.

Invoker: All the attacks are WIS oriented so you could pick up some control spells, but the PP paths aren't spectacular.

Shaman: Wow. The primary stat is right, no problems there. The most ridiculous aspect of this MC is the spirit companion; I don't think I could have asked for more interesting tactical control. Spirit's Shield is great. Once per encounter when a creature moves away from your companion without shifting you can heal someone within 5 squares for WIS modifier hit points. This is probably one of the best healing mechanics in the game (I feel it is almost overpowered for the shaman since he has it as an at-will, no other class has the potential for unlimited healing small healing like this). To top it all off, it's an interrupt! Just stick your companion next to an enemy that's easy to force a move from (i.e. compel them to move by the presence of your melee, forced movement doesn't provoke AoOs) and profit! Even if they deny you the heal, you're forcing them to only move one space each turn lest they waste their standard action. Also, the companion is an object that blocks LoS and blocks movement to your enemies; he's also just as fast as you, and moving him is a free action upon moving yourself! Every other spell with an encounter-long object/effect is a daily. Great synergy. Great Bear Shaman is also an amazing PP if you love your defender.

Warden: The great thing about this class is that the Guardian forms don't require a STR roll so you don't even have to worry about hitting! Also, the PPs (Horned Champion and Verdant Lord) are very good for controllers and, again, you needn't worry about a low STR!





PARAGON PATHS

Druid Specific
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Blood Moon Stalker: This is purely a striker build. The only good thing is the reroll at level 12 and it's only a daily. Pass.

Guardian of he Living Gate: Not horrible. Entwining Evocation is probably the best part of this. But the rest is very single-target oriented.

Keeper of the Hidden Flame: You get Prime Shot and a group anti-charge. Good. The Lvl. 11 Summon the Beast power is a great peel (vs. WILL) and a great way to set-up your defender as well. Lvl 12 Utility: Spark of Fury: It's a group-wide +1 hit +2 damage nova setup at level 12. Sky blue for sure. The lvl 20 domination-type daily is very powerful single-target control. The only downside to this path is that it's exclusively caster-oriented; solid option regardless.

Sky Hunter: Extra move on an action point is great, and the lvl 11 encounter power is a very nice "predictive interrupt". Soaring Falcon can replace "Black Harbinger (lvl 6)" if you took it. It's also a great way to avoid AoO and difficult terrain. Primal eagle has a very large mass slow with good damage. On top of that you can fly on a shapeshift for the rest of the encounter. Solid path.




Multiclass
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Cleric PPs:
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Angelic Avenger: +4 to attacks after your action point and a ridiculously large burst 8 vs. Will attack at lvl 11. Not horrible but there are much better choices.

Divine Oracle: Godly (pun intended). Roll twice for Initiative coupled with the two Initiative boosting feats means you'll practically always be near the top on initiative; immunity to surprise; delayed move on Action point; all excellnt. Roll twice on any vs. WILL attack is amazing, making it almost impossible to miss against that defense. At lvl 11 you get the ability to make any attack a crit (for you or an ally) every encounter. The level 12 daily allows everyone within 10 squares gets a +5 to all rolls for a turn. As if all this weren't enough you get a ranged 20 vs. Will 5d10 attack which, if it misses, isn't expended and allows you to regain the action point and try something else.

Warpriest: At 16th level you get to place a permanent mark on one enemy anytime they hit you with an at-will. Also you have a 5% chance of regaining a daily once per day. Not amazing as a whole, but you could do much worse.


Ranger PPs:
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Battlefield Archer: I'm still in mourning over the fact that "Archer fighting-style is a requirement".

Horizon Walker: Exclusively a mobility path. The action point recovery on a move means you get one extra move per encounter. You are also able to teleport 3+WIS as an encounter power. Not that exciting overall, but not atrocious.

Ruthless Punisher: Unspectacular. Use an action point to reroll vs. humanoid targets, one slow attack against REF with your bow, and a daily burst 10 power that essentially gives you +2 to all defenses vs. anyone in the burst. Take something else.

Sylvan Archer: Ignore cover/concealment for the attack roll when you spend an action point, +2 perception, +WIS dmg to your Hunter's Quarry. Also you can Quarry two targets per turn. The best part of this PP is the per encounter interrupt vs. REF with your bow and the daily lvl 20 vs. Will stun (save ends). I don't know if these are enough to justify it as a path though. If you're going to take the Ranger PP though, this seems to be your best option for now.



Avenger PPs:
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Unveiled Visage Fly and get +2 to all defenses on a charge. This is amazing given all the charging you're going to be doing. Also, once per encounter, you get to shift your speed. At level 20 you get a Daily power that grants flightand a +2 bonus to AC. A good path.

Zealous Assassin: You get a chance at CA on a charge at level 16. It's better to just Rogue MC and take Roundabout Charge since most of the time you're going to be charging targets who are already on one of your allies (in which case you can use them to flank).


Invoker PPs:
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Angelic Aspect: You can fly on an action point and you have an encounter power that allows you to fly until the end of your next turn. The rest of this PP is fairly self-centered though; not a lot to help your allies or control your enemies.

Hammer of Vengeance: Thundering Summons (lvl 12 /Encounter Utility) allows you to telport two allies in burst 10 to your side. Additionally the lvl 20 daily daily ability is a fairly powerful protective "shield" for one person. I don't think these are enough to justify the path though.



Shaman PPs:
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Disciple of the World Serpent: Your spirit companion carries around a burst 1 of difficult terrain and on an action point you can allow anyone to spend a healing surge (just move your spirit companion next to them). Additionally you get a lvll 11 immobilize. You also get a lvl 12 encounter power that allows you or an ally, as a minor action, to ignore any cover or concealment, or line of sight or effect until the end of your next turn. That is powerful stuff. The lvl 20 daily is a vs. Fort immobilize + damage where you need to save twice against both conditions.

Ghost Panther: This PP is an interesting mix of offense and defense. Your spirit companion grants CA when you spend an action point; once per encounter you can halve a bloodied enemy's damage, once per encounter you can slide 3 squares when you're missed, and you get a great position-friendly daily at level 20. Unfortunately none of this is really strong enough by itself. There are far better abilities and feats than those offered by this path.

Great Bear Shaman: Defenders will give you their firstborn child with this PP. Your spirit companion gives them +2 damage on marked enemies and +5 to attack for AoO. Brutally good. You gain a mediocre encounter power at level 11 and an amazing one at level 12 that allows you to shift-2 everyone within 5 squares as a minor action. Your level 20 daily is also fairly crippling against one enemy (-2 to attack and d10+WIS dmg - save ends both)

Spirit Tempest: This PP is not meant for Multiclassing. Most of its abilities deal with class features you have no access to as a druid.



Rogue PPs:
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Daring Acrobat: The selling point of this class is the +1AC/Ref bonus when charging as well as the ability to perform actions AFTER a charge (while as normally all actions have to be completed before the charge). You also get a decent Daily which works off of one of your charges.

Shadow Assassin: Your action point gives your +4 to attacks until your next turn (Amazing for novas, and even more amazing for humans). You also deal DEX modifier damage when missed, and you get an OK daily interrupt and a mediocre Daily.



SKILLS

My colour choices in this section indicate, in the class list, what would be the best skills to take. In the non-class list, I rank the skills not based on their intrinsic value, but on whether, as a druid, you could benefit from training in them. As you'll see, this section is pretty straightforward, and the choices are pretty much made for you.

Class Skills:
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Arcana: The only use you get out of training this is "Detect Magic" and more than likely there's someone with enough INT in your group to fulfill that role. Otherwise feel free to roll on Knowledge checks.

Athletics: You're never really going to be excel at this and there is no benefit to training (save the +5). Also, all the other animals will laugh at you when they see that your fighter friend is a better athlete than you. Don't let them see you cry.

Diplomacy: There's no benefit to being trained in this; and, regardless, you may as well let some CHA-pumper handle it. Maybe you can help their roll by turning into a puppy.

Endurance: There's no need for either aspect to take this. Training confers no benefit; Guardians will be naturally skilled, Predators won't be.

Heal: Useful and you are great at it. Take it.

History: Stick to learning about Nature. Less dates to memorize.

Insight: Great skill; it's the psychological equivalent of Perception and you're amazing at it. It's your counter to Bluff. Enjoy.

Nature: This is what you're supposed to be good at. And you are.

Perception: Probably the most useful skill to have. It counters Stealth and helps you avoid surprise. It also runs off of your primary stat. Enjoy.



Non-class Skills:
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Acrobatics: For Predators, this is useful skill and your DEX as a Predator is right for it (this is purple for Guardians). The only benefit to training, however, is reducing falling damage and depending on your campaign that could be useful, or not.

Bluff: A useful skill but one that you really have no proficiency for. There's also no benefit to training.

Dungeoneering: There's no need to take this. You'll already be good at it because of your high WIS and training doesn't offer any extra options.

Intimidate: You won't ever be good at it and it confers no benefits from training. Move on.

Religion: Gods? Nature treats you just fine. Nothing to see here.

Stealth: There's no benefit to training and you essentially get training (+5) "for free" with the Stalking Panther Form feat at Paragon. This skill is more useful with the errata in PHB2 but there are much easier ways to get CA and they all have much more synergy with your other talents than this one.

Streetwise: Don't you live in the wild?

Thievery: Someone else is going to have this. As a predator you'll be naturally good at it anyway, no need to train it it regardless.

MAGIC ITEMS
RITUALS
GAMEPLAY, STRATEGIES, TIPS
reserved
reserved
final reservation
Acknoweldgements:

Garawyn - editor in-chief.
ppaladin123, FuzzD, alien270 - your continual suggestions and improvements are greatly appreciated


I'll individualize this more by scanning through the posts when I have a little more time.

This is kind of weird, but the Dhampyr feats in Dragon 371 actually work nicely for a Druid.

Vampire Alacrity= +1 feat bonus to speed at heroic tier

Mist Form= mist form (swap a utility)...not as good as insect plague but earlier

night-sight = low light vision

bloodied regeneration= possibly helpful

dominating gaze= another option for level 15 or 25

scent of blood=always have combat advantage against bloodied living creatures (epic level feat)

In addition the, "blood drain" power works off of either Con or Dex and requires you to grab the opponent. You don't carry weapons and you have grab powers anyway.

Add in the Blight Beast paragon path (Dragon 373, Art of the Kill) and you have a full out shape-changing, dominating, blood-sucking vampire druid. Thematic. :D
Awesome guide so far. Thanks for all the hard work, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the rest!

A couple of initial thoughts/nits on what you have to date. Take them for what they're worth:

1) Relative to the mechanics, I think the Guardian Druid is even more disadvantaged than you think versus Predator. Druid already has all the light types of armor by default. The main CON advantage is access to better armors, but those negate the Guardian Druid benefit! The only other real "benefit" is pumping Fort verses Ref, and I'm not sure I see that as a key benefit for someone who's build makes him want to stand back for preference rather than mix things up. Trade that against the +1 speed for enhanced mobility, and the Predator is hands-down the winner IMO.

2) I'd call Elven Precision sky blue. Landing a strike is the bread and butter of a controller, since it's the gateway for imposing those status effects. I know the debate raged between lock-down and hit chance for Wizards, but since Druids don't get the same lock-down buffs as Wizards, I think extra accuracy wins hands-down. That said, I can see your point about diminishing returns.

3) I think you wanted "Grasping Claws" as your sky-blue Beast Form At-Will (not repeating "Savage Rend"). I'm not sure I agree it's sky blue. The slow effect is nice, but you have to get in someone's face to do it (compare vs. Ray of Frost). It's more situational than the slide from Savage Rend, and the status effect isn't that far superior to offset the situational nature. I'd call them both dark blue. Pounce is my fave since CA is always of benefit. With a Rogue in the party, it's a solid sky blue.

4) I think Fleet Pursuit (L2) is absolutely awesome for the Guardian Druid. This enables them to do in-n-out style fighting like a Predator Druid (drop something nasty on them from range then shift, close in beast form, do something nasty, then pull back out of harm's way, rinse and repeat).

5) Call Lightning seems more purple/black than red. It's a damage-based control effect. The enemy has to choose between 5 damage + opportunity attack risk (leave the zone) versus -2 attack penalty (stay in the zone). Stack that with the 1d8 + Wis AoE, and it's not awful. I still love me some Predator's Flurry, though. Call Lightning is definitely third choice for the level.

6) Primal Wolverine (L5) isn't as bad as all that. It couples nicely with the L10 Armor of the Wild to support the "Off-Tank" Guardian Druid. You get in Wolverine form, you resist well, and anyone who tries to whack you takes damage for their troubles. Probably purple/black depending on one's build. If only it would mark, too.

7) I'd call Stalker's Eyes (L6) red. +4 to perception checks as the sole benefit for Elf/Dwarf/Shifter is very sucky for a L6 utility. Even if you're a Human, it's purple at best.

8) Armor of the Wild (L10) seems rated right for a Guardian, but a Predator isn't going to see much use out of this at all. +Con on your defenses is the suck for a Predator Druid.

Again, thanks for the great work thus far!

-Garanwyn
ppPaladin: I haven't seen D371 but it sounds interesting. Does the Dhampyr overlay onto an existing Race or does it have its own stat bonuses etc.?

Lumi: I'm sorry I don't think it's possible to change a thread title once it's submitted, I had no idea. I didn't realize it was so uncommon.
I disagree about Chill Wind though. FORT targetting is statistically the worst; even more so against melee opponents, which are the only ones you're going to care about moving anyway. Your hit ratio is abysmal and the damage doesn't scale with levels. It's a poor choice in the lower levels and simply unjustifiable later on.

Garawyn:
1) Yep, you're right. Even worse than I thought
2) It's definitely up there, I'll think on it some more.
3) Thanks for catching that, fixed! Grasping claws is amazing because it's a slow that targets REF. Slows devastate melee characters and that is why almost all movement/slow effects target FORT, a defense melee characters almost always have as a top stat. A frostbolt targetting REF for example would allow indefinite melee kiting, which is why it targets FORT. Unfortunately, this results in a severely nerfed Wizard. The melee nature of Grasping Claws is actually a boon because it gives you a higher chance to hit (situational CA); in isolation the slow isn't amazing since you're already in melee, but as a peel it's amazing:you can charge the enemy, slow him, and then your caster friend runs away with impunity. Frostbolts simply can't compare.
I like pounce too!
4) Yep Fleet Pursuit is great for a Guardian druid. Which I think is more telling of the state of the Guardian druid than of the spell itself >_< !
5) Yeah, it isn't horrible, I think I just get carried away with the Red ink sometimes.
6) They seem to have wanted the guardian to be able to tank as well. But it just doesn't work. I know I exaggerate a bit with Dire Wolverine and part of it is just my exasperation at how ill-thought out the Guardian druid is.
7) Yeah it's pretty terrible, I'll change that.
8) Very true.

Thanks for your comments!
ppPaladin: I haven't seen D371 but it sounds interesting. Does the Dhampyr overlay onto an existing Race or does it have its own stat bonuses etc.?

Dhampyr is a bloodline feat...any race can take it. The powers/feats aren't amazing but they do fit oddly enough.
Cool thanks ppPaladin!

So, contributing with actual content. I would pick Chill Wind even if it only did a single point of damage.

- Can be used to wipe minions where Flame Seed's area doesn't work. Also works well as a follow-up to Flame Seed and other burst effects.
- Ally friendly. The low damage is good here. Drop it on top of an ally; if you miss - yay. If you hit, you can slide him one square. Also, if the ally has Agile Opportunist...
- Sliding enemies is the big brother of allies shifting, allowing you to set up flanking, draw soldiers away from retaliation range, deny flank-CA from lurkers and jam a squishy controller next to an ally who will chop him up if he tries fleeing or casting.
- Targeting fort instead of ref is equal to using an axe instead of a longsword. It's only a problem with brutes, really. Everyone else has their fort below their AC on average. Soldiers are at an average of -1.55, Minions at -1.90, Lurkers at -2.86. They are the monsters you should be moving, not the brutes.

Making a point of "it doesn't do enough damage!" makes me ask... What was your role again?
Lumi: Yes you can use Chill Wind for all the things you said, but you won't be able to reliably do any of them because you won't hit. I understand the numbers you are quoting but I think you're interpreting them incorrectly.
You say minions, on average, have a FORT 1.9 lower than AC. OK, let's work with this.
Melee are designed to hit AC. To do this they have weapon proficiency + CA (excluding stat modifiers and feats). That's a total of about +4 over a caster. So if a minion is balanced for a melee class to hit AC with a +4, then its FORT should be on avg. -4 to keep melee and casters competitive.

I would love to be able to take Chill Wind supposing I could hit. But I can't base my turns on hoping that I'm going to hit; I'm better off jumping into beast form and actually having OVER 20% higher chance to hit (+4 +the benefit of REF targetting). Additionally you're actually doing damage at higher levels. Chill Wind doesn't move anything and doesn't do damage, what's the point?

And, I know my role as a controller, my point that Chill Wind doesn't do enough damage was to accentuate my incredulity as to why the spell is even there in its current form. Unreliable control with no damage vs. reliable control with good damage? I'm a controller but I'm not oblivious to the fact that damage is meta-control. The longer the encounter lasts the fewer resources you have.
You say minions, on average, have a FORT 1.9 lower than AC. OK, let's work with this.

Minions reflex, on average, is -3.15 lower than their AC. That's 1.25 higher than their fort, which translates to you needing to roll 8+ instead of 7+. Does this translate to "you never hit"? Five percent off and it's worthless?

There's also a lovely thing called Lasting Frost+Wintertouched that evens it out quite wonderfully.
Minions reflex, on average, is -3.15 lower than their AC. That's 1.25 higher than their fort, which translates to you needing to roll 8+ instead of 7+. Does this translate to "you never hit"? Five percent off and it's worthless?

There's also a lovely thing called Lasting Frost+Wintertouched that evens it out quite wonderfully.

But in beast form you can guarantee CA and you're targetting a lower defense; with Chillwind you need two feats to guarantee CA and you're still targetting fort.

If they removed the Chillwind damage component entirely and upped its hit by a lot, I think it would be an amazing spell.

I just feel like a slide that targets FORT is tactically undesirable: If they're a dedicated melee class, and they're on your tank, then all's right with the world, if you need to help position, you can do it more reliably (vs. REF) in beast form without risking damage on your team members. If they manage to break off and get to your ranged classes, the 1-slide is a poor peel (except from a fighter) compared to a slow. The 1-slide against FORT on a melee is even worse.
If they're not a melee class, sliding them around is pretty useless unless they're within 1 square of your melee teammates. You're better off slowing them.

But thanks for the discussion, I like thinking about these kinds of things!
Call of the Beast's damage might not be as good as you think. It got no damage roll, just the static 5 damage. So you can't add your enhancement bonus or anything else that adds damage to "damage rolls". Most times this will just be 5 + Wis-Mod and nothing else.
If your tank is swarmed and you want to deny all of your enemies combat advantage your tank will be in the burst as well. Because its vs. Will you normally will hit your defender and he can't do anything to prevent the damage while the enemies just can attack the defender and take no damage.
I'm not really sold on Call of the Beast.

In contrast Chill Wind actually does scale, it just misses the Wis-Mod to damage but it still adds enhancement/feat/item-bonus to damage rolls. And if you hit your defender with it (most defender have a good Fort so it's less likely) you can help him by sliding him out of a flanking position.
Does the feat "Distant Advantage" help here by providing occasional CA when targeting Fort?
3) Thanks for catching that, fixed! Grasping claws is amazing because it's a slow that targets REF. Slows devastate melee characters and that is why almost all movement/slow effects target FORT, a defense melee characters almost always have as a top stat. A frostbolt targetting REF for example would allow indefinite melee kiting, which is why it targets FORT. Unfortunately, this results in a severely nerfed Wizard. The melee nature of Grasping Claws is actually a boon because it gives you a higher chance to hit (situational CA); in isolation the slow isn't amazing since you're already in melee, but as a peel it's amazing:you can charge the enemy, slow him, and then your caster friend runs away with impunity. Frostbolts simply can't compare.

I totally hear you on REF vs. FORT. I guess my concern is that the slow only comes into it's own for the "ranged-protect" you're talking about when it's already too late. If your wizard/ranged buddy is close enough to the enemy to help with CA, then they're going to have to shift to get away safely (or risk an OA). That means that the enemy gets a free attack or can, on their next turn, re-close the distance and attack.

I think what they really intended this power for was for stopping runners (you hit the back rank and slow them -- no escape for you!), or slowing individual enemies closing on the group (but before they get to the group) to enable the rest of the party to beat on the front-runner in safety. Charge/Pounce + AP + Grasping Claws = win and awesome for controlling one enemy at the start of the fight or one enemy who is evading/running. In this sense, it teams with all the grab/knockdown encounter and daily powers in beast form. Even given that design, though, I see Grasping Claws as most useful at the start of the fight, then falling off to more situational afterward. It is at it's most useful when you can't get CA except with Pounce. This is why I would say it's dark blue not sky blue. But it's your guide, and it *is* an awesome power.

4) Yep Fleet Pursuit is great for a Guardian druid. Which I think is more telling of the state of the Guardian druid than of the spell itself >_< !

Good point. Plus, my sleep-deprived brain failed to note that the bonus is DEX bonus. This is supposed to be Predator Druid love

6) They seem to have wanted the guardian to be able to tank as well. But it just doesn't work. I know I exaggerate a bit with Dire Wolverine and part of it is just my exasperation at how ill-thought out the Guardian druid is.

I hear you. I wish WotC had given the Guardian more love, since it's an interesting option. We need T-shirts: "I rolled Guardian Druid, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt"
Nythras: Call of the Beast is tricky to interpret because it's not clear what happens to your allies. My interpretation of RAI is that this spell affects your ally in the same way it affects your enemies. That is to say, it denies them CA and it makes them attack their nearest enemy or suffer the damage.
My use of CotB occurs when your tank is unfortunately swarmed. You deny all his attackers CA, reducing incoming damage by 10%, and you also reduce his CA (should he have it to begin with); I think that's an acceptable trade-off though. Also, he's not going to run away (he's a tank after all), and any of his attackers are suitable candidates for his attack, so he can always choose not to take damage. His attackers have to stay or suffer the penalty. In either case, you've reduced incoming damage on your tank by 10%.

Taco: Distant advantage could help but it's a really poorly designed feat for AoEs because of the way area of effect spells are all squares (3x3, 4x4, etc.). This means that the only way for you to target a flanked target with an AoE while avoiding your flankers is by having your melee flank on a diagonal. (And smart melee will accommodate you in this way if you set it up with them before the cast) The problem is that diagonal flanking is very easy to escape since a single shift gets you out of range of both targets. Square flanking requires first a shift away from one enemy (preferably the fighter), then a move away from the other (to limit yourself to only one AoO and to deny take a fighter snare, alternatively you could shift twice and take no AoOs except for the Combat Superiority one). Thanks for bringing it up!

Garanwyn: Hopefully Primal Power will fix the Guardian Aspect!
CotB says "your ally". If you hit the defender, he must still attack one of your allies. It doesn't say nearest enemy.
CotB says "your ally". If you hit the defender, he must still attack one of your allies. It doesn't say nearest enemy.

I fully understand that this is how it is written, but do you really think it's RAI?

"You draw forth the savagery that dwells in every creature, compelling your enemies to fight without forethought or plan."

I feel like the spell just makes people go into a battle frenzy; so your defender would attack his enemies without CA and suffer damage otherwise. However I realize this is an interpretation based on inversion of ally/enemy. Are there any other instances of this in other spells? It would be interesting to see what WotC means.

If you're right though, this spell is not as powerful.
Grasping Claw+Warpriest=Half Defender/Healer (Mark+Slow, either Shift of Move provoke OA, then Slow);
Low Damage+Winter Chill+ Agile Opportunist + Cold Resistance=Half Leader (At will Slide and OA);
Itself is a Controller.
The difficult aspect is the Striker.....
That pic you have on the first post is totally from the Heroes of Might and Magic series, isnt it? :D
That pic you have on the first post is totally from the Heroes of Might and Magic series, isnt it? :D

Yep! :D
Are there any other instances of this in other spells? It would be interesting to see what WotC means.

There are other instances of "enemy" flavor text converting to "creature" in the power description. I would tend to agree that RAW produces a weirdly useless/illogical power, so my inclination would be to interpret it in a more logical and useful manner. After all, suppose that your Defender is also your closest ally. RAW says he has to attack himself or suffer damage??? That's crazy. The only time this power is useful is in CA situations, and in those cases one is almost certain to clip an ally in the burst area. If it forces the clipped ally to both lose CA *and* take damage/deal damage to a teammate... what were they thinking? Sounds like time for a question to Cust Serv.
Race: Bladeling (manual of the planes). +2 Dex, +2 Wis. Really cool Close Burst attack. Perfect for predators.
Alanlichen: Your PP Cleric suggestion is a good one, thanks; as to Chill Wind, see my edit in the at-will section for why I don't think the lasting frost-wintertouched combo is all that great with Chill Wind.

Werrwaaa: Looks interesting. The encounter is cool but not very versatile and they have nothing other than the stats in their favour. A blue class for sure but worse than humans I think. Thanks!

Garanwyn: To the Cust Serv!
Alanlichen: Your PP Cleric suggestion is a good one, thanks; as to Chill Wind, see my edit in the at-will section for why I don't think the lasting frost-wintertouched combo is all that great with Chill Wind.

Werrwaaa: Looks interesting. The encounter is cool but not very versatile and they have nothing other than the stats in their favour. A blue class for sure but worse than humans I think. Thanks!

Garanwyn: To the Cust Serv!

Avenger+MC+Heavy Blade Opportunity or any high CH Multi-roll build could use this combo.
Great guide! I really like your tactical discussion. Can't wait to see the rest, keep it coming! And I agree with you about Chill Wind.
Kiaia, you have single-handedly gotten me interested in the Predator Druid. Keep up the good work, sir.
Kiaia, you have single-handedly gotten me interested in the Predator Druid. Keep up the good work, sir.

Thank you kindly, FuzzD!


xMagicx: Thanks!
I just saw the new updates, and the added material looks really good. Keep up the great work! Are you planning on posting some representative builds when you get done? I'd be interested to see your take on collections of powers through the levels that harmonize.

As for the new content, some thoughts/questions/typeos, again offered for what they're worth:

1) Primal Restoration (L16)

The real advantage of this power as I see it is for the Leader-like Druid, since it enables all allies to either healing surge (somewhat useful) or remove an effect that save can end automatically (awesome at the higher levels). If you have a real leader, this power is not so good (purple looks about right). If your Druid is pulling leader support duty, though, this one is probably dark blue.

2) Insect Plague (L16)

You can fly and squeeze, sure, but I guess I'm not seeing where this is a gotta-have. Looks black/dark blue to me, especially compared to Howl of the Wild/Wall of Stone. Am I missing something?

3) Wall of Stone (L16)

The key tactic is total lock-down. You can completely surround 2 enemies with a 6 square high wall that takes 100 damage to breach. It doesn't get much more awesome in the take-someone-out-of-the fight-for-a-while department than this.

4) Phantom Beast/Unseen Beast (L22)

I'm not in love with these. They only grant benefit while your current turn lasts. If it were "until end of your next turn," they would be awesome and win. Unseen Beast, at least, sets up CA all the time. But Phantom Beast is only good against opportunity attacks while moving. Is there something I'm missing that makes these sky blue?

5) Sky Talon (L22)

You have a typeo. It's daily powers that this prevents you using, not beast powers. That said, this is one sweet power! Finally, a fly-form that lets one actually attack.

6) Unyielding Roots (L22)

This is the one power which actually looks GOOD for a Guardian Druid ;)

7) Grasping Earth (L23)

The problem is that this only sets up novas with beast-form powers, and there are few multi-target beast-form attack powers. GE + Feral Whirlwind or Leaping Rake are probably the best multi-target combos. As a set-up for a single target nova, it works great -- although the fact that it catches friends and enemies alike means that it's harder to use on the BBEG. The place where GE really shines is as a setup for Winter Hailstorm/Blinding Blizzard (multi) or Gaze of the Beast (single).

8) Ferocious Maul (L25)

Is it really as bad as all that? It does an automatic 2d10 + WIS damage (automatic rolled damage abilities are rare), and attacks all 3 NADs with potential status effects. Also, combine with Primal Wolf for some prone target fun.

9) Druid PPs

Which do you recommend, between Keeper of the Hidden Flame and Sky Hunter? Keeper looks a bit better to my eye, but I'm curious as to what you think.

-Garanwyn
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