Gotta Protect 'Em All: A Bear Shaman's Handbook

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Gotta Protect 'Em All:
A Guide for the Curious Bear Shaman.



IMAGE(http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/PH2/5.jpg)



Tired of the same old DnD experience night in and night out? Twin-striking over and over until your fingers bleed just isn't doing it for you anymore? Writing down 6 temporary hit points on your Battle Rager's character sheet every time you get hit has become mundane?

It's time to give something new a try. It's time to play a class that requires quick thinking and careful strategic planning; a class whose success or failure decides whether your friend's Bugbear Tempest Fighter lives or dies.

Oh yes, it's time to play a Bear Shaman.

(A quick aside: This is my first attempt at writing a Handbook. Please do not go easy on me. Tear me as many new ones as you can; in the end it will produce a higher quality guide. Also, I am aware that Seifalmasy has started a wonderful guide here: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1165608&highlight=shaman+handbook However, it is a more general undertaking. This guide is focused solely on the Protecting Spirit class feature.)

References
http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1080296 -- Lordduskblade's fighter's handbook for layout and insight. Very talented guide writer.

http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1165608&highlight=shaman+handbook -- Seifalmasy's Guide to the Shaman for inspiration and ideas.

More forthcoming.

Special Thanks To
All of those who took the time to read the guide and post in this thread. I appreciate it. I'm going to try to implement as many of your valuable suggestions as possible.

This guide will use the standard handbook rating system:
Poor: A very low-quality option. Stay away from this rating unless there is absolutely no other choice, or RP factors force the issue.
Fair: A substandard but not totally worthless choice. There will almost always be a better option available. A purple rating might denote situational usefulness, though.
Average: Not a bad choice at all. Taking this will certainly not handicap you, but there is probably something better to consider.
Good: A powerful or efficient choice. You can safely take this and not look back.
Excellent: You had better have a very good reason for not taking this.

Protecting 'Em All: An Overview



Bears are Super-Awesome
'Bear Shaman' refers to playing a Shaman that takes the Protector Spirit class feature as opposed to taking a Stalker Spirit. Doing so essentially means that your character will be focused on defensive, patient play. You will excel at bulk and emergency healing, and also be more than capable at tactical support. If your other party members are vigilant at preventing the enemy at taking pot shots at you, there are few other leader builds that will be able to rival your sheer healing and buffing throughput.

The notion that the Bear Shaman lacks viable offensive tech is unfounded. Giving up Stalker's Strike is a small price to pay when you can still easily take Watcher's Strike as an at-will. Shamans actually have very respectable offensive choices in their dailies and encounters as well. The only downside to choosing a more offensive build is that you give up being the absolutely completely optimized healing beast that you could be otherwise. But really that choice is up to you.

Leading from the Rear
Regardless of what feats or powers you choose, it will generally be in your best interest to stay well away from the fray. Direct your allies and your spirit to tie up as many enemies as possible, and then focus on putting as many obstacles and as much distance between you and and the rest of the baddies as possible.

Because it is generally wisest to place himself in remote or protected areas of the board, the Shaman will often find himself relatively confined from turn to turn. A skilled player has to extend his sphere of influence by using his spirit as much as possible. Contrary to popular opinion, the spirit companion is extremely tough at all levels of play. Enemies must deal a scaling minimum amount of damage in one hit or fail to inflict any damage at all. The strategic beauty here is that your DM will find himself literally wasting many attacks that otherwise could have put a dent in your tank or your rogue, even if they connect with the spirit. And best of all, even if they do manage to kill it, the feedback damage you take is relatively minimal, and you can re-summon your pet with a mere minor action on your next turn. Pray for the DM to attack your pet every single turn.

Most of the attacks that actually originate from the Shaman himself have a range of 5. There are a few exceptions that have range 10, but these are few and far between, and generally are reactive in nature. Essentially this means that in order to throw out your main encounter or healing abilities, you are going to have to get a little closer to the action. This is not the end of the world, but you definitely want to be careful and plan for contingencies before you commit. Preferably, if the worst case scenario happens and you get three brutes in your face, you'll be able to depend on a well timed Encounter power from your friendly controller buddy.

The AC Issue
When creating a new Shaman, you must consider whether to take chain mail proficiency or not. Doing so will provide a significant increase to AC, but you sacrifice one feat, one speed, and a significant investment of three points into STR, which does little else for you, (unless you want to multi-class into warlord). On the other hand, not taking chain mail means that you will need to be very careful against competent DM's in tough encounters. Contrary to popular opinion, I strongly believe that chain mail is NOT required to be successful as a bear shaman, but you had better be confident in your tactical skills if you decide to forgo it. I have tested both styles at all three tiers of play, so I can say with experience that not having chain mail does not break the class. In fact, in many ways it is nice, because it allows higher speed and initiative. Just be careful.

Being a Team Player
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not address party synergy. If you are going to be playing with players that do not follow directions well or do not enjoy playing tactically, reconsider rolling this class. Bear shamans are exceedingly strong at what they do, but they rely heavily on teamwork to be successful. Fighters that ignore flanking and positioning, controllers that refuse to control, and strikers that like to attack a different target every turn are your worst enemy. But don't get me wrong, this is not a weakness; on the contrary, it allows the Shaman to be extremely powerful in the right hands.

Bear Shamans: Class Features and Statistics



HP, Healing Surges, and Proficiencies

Hit Points - 12 + Con at first level and 5 for each level thereafter. Normally this would be pretty average for a leader. However, Con is the Bear Shaman's secondary stat, so your total hp can be very respectable.

Healing Surges per day - 7 + Con. Not bad, again especially because your Con is going to be relatively high.

Proficiencies and Implements - Leather armor, simple melee, Longspears, and Totems. Absolutely abysmal. In fact, you might have the worst proficiencies of any class in the game. Totems are the worst implements at the moment simply by virtue of the fact that there are very few of them. And leather armor for a class that does not favor INT or DEX and has no feature-based bonus to AC is absolutely crappy. Oh well, them's the breaks.


Class Features

Companion Spirit - A truly great class feature. The versatility of a pet that can get in the way of enemies, assist allies, improve your healing, and give you an effective range of 20 is simply too good to be rated anything below sky blue. This is your bread and butter ability, and all of your other abilities key off of it.

Healing Spirit - An excellent, if unique healing ability. While it lags behind the single-target heals of other leaders, it jumps ahead in terms of AoE or bulk healing. With Protector's Spirit, you can achieve truly impressive throughput.

Speak with Spirits - Wisdom is your primary stat. This is probably the single best skill-challenge power you can get without spending a power slot.


Races of the Bear



PHB Races

Dragonborn - The racial bonus to charisma is pretty much wasted on you. Dragonbreath is a nifty racial power, but you will rarely want to be close enough to multiple enemies to use it. And bear shamans, unlike many classes, tend you use their minor action almost every turn anyway. The only thing that saves them from being red is the fact that they have good racial synergy with high CON, and the racial to strength can help with getting 13 strength for chainmail proficiency.

Dwarf - Perfect racial synergy. Allows you to grab a 13 strength while still having 18's in WIS and CON. The racial feats aren't exactly amazing, but the base race features are pretty stellar in general.

Eladrin - +2 to DEX or INT is not terrible for help with AC if you don't want to grab chainmail, but the fact that you get both at the same time is redundant. I suppose some may argue that Fey Step alone is enough reason to make these purple, but really I don't see the point. There will always be a superior choice unless you a dead set on playing an Eladrin for RP reasons.

Elf - A potential rival to the Dwarf. Behind WIS and CON, dexterity is your next best stat as it boosts your initiative and AC. Unfortunately, if you go Elf, you probably won't be able to take chain mail proficiency, (at least until epic tier), but to be honest if you play intelligently and play with reliable party members it won't be that big of an issue. In addition, Elf racials are pretty amazing for Shamans. Elven Accuracy is always win.

Half-Elf - With the advent of Versatile Master, Half-Elfs can make an argument for being good at every class. But charisma is generally a poor stat for you. This is not a bad choice, but I would not suggest choosing this unless you are willing to get your hands dirty with some serious multi-classing.

Halfling - Oh dear. Unless you are in love with Second Chance, stay far far away.

Human - The tried and true pick. You can't go wrong here, especially if you intend to multi-class.

Tiefling - Worse than the Halfling.


PHB 2 Races

Deva - Very similar to the Elf. Basically you take a slight hit trading DEX for INT, but the other racials match up very favorably. Elves are slightly better in the end, but really it's so close that either is a good competitor to the Dwarf.

Gnome - Ugh. Just slightly better than the Halfling because Fade Away is actually quite useful. But really just stay away.

Goliath - Surprisingly not a terrible choice. You can take 18 WIS, 16 CON, 13 STR, and have chain mail at level 1. In addition, Stone's Endurance is situationally useful if you know the DM has a vendetta against you. Plus Goliaths are just freakin' sweet.

Half-Orc - One would think this would be a better choice from a fluff perspective. But, dear lord, no. No. Just no. If you took this, I really hope you wrote in pencil. Horrible stat synergy and all of your racials just stink for Shamans.

Shifter, Longtooth - Quite good actually. You will basically be going chain mail at level 1.

Shifter, Razorclaw - Another good choice. Similar to the Elf and Deva.


Dragon Magazine Races

Gnoll - DEX and CON aren't terrible, but they aren't great either. The charging synergy is pretty much wasted on you, however.

Minotaur - A weaker version of the Goliath. Although still pretty badass.

Shadar-kai - Meh. The racial teleport is okay. I guess.

Warforged - I suppose on par with Goliaths. But more survivable. You're going chain mail.


Starting Stats



Shamans can actually make pretty good use of most ability scores.

Strength - The only reason to put points into strength is to get armor proficiencies. (Recommended Starting Value: 13 if you want chain mail, 10 if you want to get it in Epic Tier, 8 if you don't want it at all. No exceptions.)

Constitution - Your secondary stat. Contributes to HP and your effectiveness as a healer. (Recommended Starting Value: 16 to 18 before racial bonuses.)

Dexterity - A good tertiary stat. A good stat to go for if you are a Razorclaw or an Elf. Helps with initiative and AC. (Recommended Stating Value: 12 to 14 before racial bonuses. If you take chain mail proficiency, take 10.)

Intelligence - A weaker version of DEX. (Recommended Stating Value: 12 to 14 before racial bonuses. If you take chain mail proficiency, take 10.)

Wisdom - Your bread-and-butter. Max this. NO exceptions. (Recommended Stating Value: 16 to 18 before racial bonuses.)

Charisma - The only use is for social skills, many of which you don't have access to anyway. And you always have Speak with Spirits. (Recommended Stating Value: 8 to 10 before racial bonuses.)

Skills



Class Skills

Nature - You have to take this. Luckily it's a good skill.

Arcana - Keys off Int, but the skill itself is pretty useful. Devas should be tempted to take this.

Athletics - Keys off a stat that you will at most have at +1. Your party will have a strong man. Stay away.

Endurance - Can definitely save your butt in certain situations, and it keys off your secondary stat.

Heal - Incredibly useful skill for a leader, and works of wisdom. Win.

History - Ehhh.

Insight - Works off Wisdom. Has a passive value.

Perception - Arguably the best skill in the game.

Religion - Don't waste a skill slot on it. Those who multi-class into Cleric will get this for free.

Take Heart Young One: How to get the most out of your build



First let's take a look at the ups and downs of the Shaman class in general.

Weaknesses:
  • You will be plagued by low AC.
  • You must sacrifice important power choices to be able to grant saving throws.
  • Like all leaders, you require competent allies to truly flourish.
  • Though you are accurate, you will have very low DPR.
  • You are forced to use totems. At the moment, totems are lame.


Strengths:
  • Extremely high healing potential. The most bulk healing of any class.
  • Can use the spirit to influence positioning without putting yourself at risk.
  • You have access to repeatable healing that does not force the target to spend a surge.
  • A versatile leader, you trade personal toughness for the ability to perform all aspects of the Leader role at the same time.


Any attempt at optimization must try to minimize weaknesses while maximizing strengths. Thus, it is important to go into the class with an acceptance of what you can and cannot do. Regardless of what path you go, you will always provide very good healing and tactical support, but you will never put out a lot of damage. This, in essence, is why the Protector Spirit is so superior to the Stalker Spirit.

Both varieties of the spirits provide a good deal of tactical control simply by virtue of taking up space and being extremely difficult to kill. They are essentially equally good at being meat (or in this case, ectoplasm) shields. After that, I contend that everything about the Protector Spirit is better than the Stalker Spirit. Let's compare:

Spirit's Fangs vs. Spirit's Shield - Both abilities have the same trigger and target the same defense. Spirit's Fangs, however, requires that you hit the target to do anything. And even if it does hit, all it does is deal an extra 1d10 damage. Spirit's Fangs is essentially a normal opportunity attack on your spirit.

Spirit's Shield on the other hand is FULL OF WIN. You are trading out 5.5 average damage on a hit in exchange for free healing that does not cost a surge and scales with your wisdom, even if you miss! There is no comparison here. You are not a striker, there is no need for the 5.5 damage on a hit. And enemies will still have to respect your pet's presence because you can still kill minions with wisdom modifier damage; additionally, the healing is extremely effective and will add up over time.

Comparing Spirit Boons - Allies adjacent to your spirit get your INT to damage rolls against bloodied enemies adjacent to your spirit versus your CON in free extra healing to allies adjacent to your pet. Again, there is no comparison. A situational small bonus to damage against enemies that are already going down simply does not compare to free extra healing on a leader. If you want to be extremely offensive, roll up a striker or a Warlord.

Riders - None of the Boon-based riders for either boon are very significant. This really is a non-factor.

Overall - Taking the Stalker Spirit gives up too much healing potential for very little in return. You do not gain any sort of tech, and Protector Spirits have access to all the offensive support powers that you do.

General Build Philosophy



Having established that you are not a striker and that the Protector Spirit is the optimal choice for all builds, it's time to get into basic power choices and strategy.

First of all, abuse the power of your spirit as much as possible. I will get into the nitties and gritties of why the spirit is so good a little bit later on, but for now, take every opportunity to get the spirit adjacent to as many enemies and allies as possible every turn. Use your little bear or badger or whatever to block enemy advances and flanks, and never be afraid of getting your spirit attacked.

Choose At-Will and Encounter powers that allow your spirit to give as much tactical support as possible. None of these powers do impressive amounts of damage, so take what you CAN get, which is very good offensive and defensive buffs. Your At-Will choices are going to be your consistent and dependable additions to the party, so your choices there need to be in accordance with what kind of Leader you want to play. On the other hand, you can safely spread out the secondary effects from your Encounter powers to fill in the blanks.

Take Daily and Utility powers that augment your healing and defensive abilities as much as possible. Why? Because, again, personal offense is not your strong suit. There is no sense in taking a mediocre nova or damage buff when you can take a big time heal or saving-throw-granter. With the right selection of powers, you can make your party very, very, difficult to kill. That's the best kind of party.

Finally, your paragon path, epic destiny, and feat selections are the sprinkles on top of your shamany donut. Use them to add flair or perks to your character. Unlike many other classes, there are very few MUST-HAVE feats or paragon paths for you. You have many options, all of which I will go into in detail.

Powers: The Heroic Tier



Level 1, At-Will

Call Spirit Companion - In the running for best non-attack At-Will in the game. Maybe Wild Shape is close. That little spirit buddy of yours is a winner.

Spirit's Fangs - You shouldn't be taking Stalker Spirit. I thought we talked about this. Come on. Back away from the ledge. Put the gun down.

Spirit's Shield - ABSOLUTELY AMAZING. Free healing that does not use a surge, even if the attack misses. It is important to note that this ability is an opportunity action, and thus can be used once per TURN, not round. This ability is just epic. So damn good, especially if the spirit is next to the target of your healing.

Defending Strike - Not bad, but the bonus is typed. It's a good ability, but there are better options. The purely defensive Shaman might consider this Sky Blue.

Haunting Spirits - Pretty darn good tech. It targets will, so it's going to hit a lot. Give the rogue in your group CA almost every turn. The only downside is it does woefully pathetic damage. But that's not so bad for you.

Protecting Strike - Automatic for Protecting Spirits. Targets will and gives out aoe temporary HP. Good times.

Stalker's Strike - Would be good if it didn't hit fortitude. There are better options for sure. The fact you are stuck with this is another reason to not go Stalker Spirit.

Watcher's Strike - Untyped attack roll and Perception bonuses. Extremely good strategic value here. If you get creative, you can even spread the bonus to your casters. You should think long and hard before you skip this power.

Wrath of Winter - Might look good at first glance, but it targets Fort and the rider is actually not that great. Consider that many DM's simply won't try/ won't be able to kill your spirit with OA's. Just move the pet next to your target.


Level 1, Encounter

Call to the Ancestral Warrior - It's a solid defensive option, but it won't turn the tide of a battle.

Call to the Ancient Defender - Targets fort. Horrible rider. I suppose the only reason to take this is the damage, and in that case you probably should be taking Twin Panthers instead.

Thunder Bear's Warding - Again, targets fort. I'm not a big fan of situationally useful abilities that target fort. You shouldn't be either. You can never really count on it hitting when you need it to.

Twin Panthers - Probably the best of a mediocre bunch. The on hit ability is pretty useful, and the effect is excellent. If you want more defense, go Call to the Ancestral Warrior. Otherwise, take this.


Level 1, Daily

Wow, there are some crazy good powers here.

Blessing of the Seven Winds - The attack itself and the on hit effects are blah, but holy moly is the effect amazing. You cannot go wrong with this power. Later on I will suggest taking this power over a higher level daily. I'm serious.

Cleansing Wind of the North - Another amazing power. First of all, the AoE attack is pretty useful, even if it does attack fort. But the effect is extremely good. Your biggest weakness as a leader is your lack of saving throw granting abilities. This is a BIG TIME remedy to that. Maybe this isn't what you take at level 1, but you will likely want to retrain into this later.

Spirit of the Healing Flood - Insanely good at early levels. Tons of free healing and a minion killing AoE. I strongly suggest taking this at level 1 and retraining into a more tech-y option later when 10 free hp isn't as big of a deal.

Wrath of the Spirit World - A very strong AoE ability, but you have to get very close to the enemy and it lacks the pure win of the other three powers in this tier. It's good, but don't take it.



Level 2, Utility

Bonds of the Clan - Subtly, this is an excellent excellent power. First of all, if you do your job right, you won't be taking a lot of damage yourself, so the damage you take from this power is not such a big deal. Second, The ability to halve a huge burst or a lucky enemy crit can't be underrated. You will be surprised how useful this power is at keeping your party healthy. It's an encounter to boot, so use it liberally. This can save your allies from being dropped or even killed from a coup de grace. Finally, Shaman's are excellent multi-target healers, so spreading out damage is never a bad thing.

Spirit Call - Good at later levels, IF you take a lot of zone and conjuration powers. Otherwise it is very bland. Don't take this at level 2. If you have to have this, retrain into it later.

Spirit of Life - It's another daily heal. It's good, but the fact that it's a Daily really brings this down for me.

Spirits of Battle - It's a zone. But honestly it pales in comparison to the other three choices. (Note: Please refer below where I talk about the issue of zones and the Spirit Tempest Paragon path. There is a good deal of debate and confusion on this issue.)


Level 3, Encounter

Call to the Savage Elder - Good damage and on hit effect. It's a good offensive option.

Lightning Panther Spirit - Another decent tech ability, but really not amazing.

Rimefire Spirit - Targets will, but does piddly damage and has a pretty situational/terrible on hit effect.

Spring Renewal Strike - An encounter heal. This is quite good. If only it didn't target fort. You might consider saving rerolls for this.


Level 5, Daily

Earthrage Spirit - Pretty good AoE. The knock down effects can be pretty useful.

Spirit of the Hawk's Wind - Another solid ability. The zone is very good, but again, I'm not too crazy for shifting abilities on the the Bear Shaman.

Spirit of the Shielding Fire - Stay away from this. If you find yourself in desperate need of the ability to give someone 10 temp HP, you have bigger problems than which Daily to take at level 5.

War Chieftan's Blessing - Decent enough attack for solo encounters.

A final word on this bracket. Earthrage Spirit and Spirit of the Hawk's Wind are pretty good powers, but I would strongly urge you to take another level 1 daily here. All three of the good level 1 dailies are superior to any level 5 daily in my opinion.


Level 6, Utility

Blessing of the Iron Tree - This is potentially very good at early levels. If you find yourself playing with a very good defender whose only weakness is damage mitigation, this might be worth taking. Otherwise, the fact that the target must be bloodied, and that the ability is a daily rather than an encounter force me to suggest taking something else.

Spirit of Dawn - It's a zone. OK. I'm starting to think zones are overrated.

Spirit of the Keeper - A good daily heal. You can't go wrong with this, but it won't be a home run pick.

Sudden Restoration - High end of Blue. I think this is the safest pick in this bracket, because any opportunity to grant more saving throws is very good for you.


Level 7, Encounter

Call to the Blood Dancer - This is probably the best of a weak bunch. It targets will and does respectable damage. The increased crit range for the party can be very useful against the big bad guy and solos, but there is serious potential for this to do absolutely nothing. It is still a decent pick.

Call to the Howling Storm - Very very meh. This power will never swing an encounter for you.

Thunderstorm Spirit - It's not terrible, but if you want to go offensive, take Call to the Blood Dancer.

Winter Wind Spirit - The rider is potentially pretty good, but it targets fort. For a power that is very situational, targeting fort is bad.

Note: If you are going the multi-class route, I suggest strongly considering switching out your encounter power here.


Level 9, Daily

Ancient Warlord's Inspiration - You might as well ignore the attack, but the conjuration is OK. I'd only take this if you want to be more offensive and you have a good amount of melee damage.

Clever Trickster Spirit - It's decent control and hits will. But I'm not a huge fan of granting combat advantage on one target from dailies. If you really think this is good, you should have taken Haunting Spirits at level 1.

Raging Storm Spirit - A pretty decent zone for a change. This is pretty much the pick for this level.

Spirit of Autumn's Reaping - The healing is insignificant and it targets fortitude. Boo.


Level 10, Utility


Primal Gust - Useful because it doesn't require a roll and it's an encounter.

Rock Shield Spirits - Another lackluster zone. You really have to be a big fan of zones to keep taking these.

Spirits of the Shadowed Moon - Not bad. But this is a daily, so I tend to favor Primal Gust.

Spirit Summons - This is a wild card power. This is potentially a very good power, but I'm not sure I would take it at this level yet. After you get settled into your paragon or epic destiny, this becomes more and more interesting, but for right now you might consider taking another healing utility from a lower level. You can't go terribly wrong by picking this right away, but from a pure optimization stand point I think you can do better for right now.

Powers: The Paragon Tier



Level 13, Encounter

Call to the Indomitable Defender - This would be sky blue if it didn't target fort.

Call to the Laughing Fortune - This is actually a pretty good offensive power. You would could do much worse than to take this power, even though you don't get the rider.

Howling Gust - Good, but you probably have better options. However, I will say that the on hit effect definitely has the potential to save an encounter. It's worth considering if you have a particularly melee heavy party, OR, if you want a last-ditch tool to get a brute off of you in the back ranks.

Spirit of the Cleansing Light - Targets will, does good damage, and gives a saving throw. The front-runner in this bracket.



Level 15, Daily

Guardian of the Primal Copse - Stay away. Targets fort and gives an effect that will rarely be useful.

Searing Wind of the South - Like above, except with a slightly more useful effect.

Spirit of the Wolf Pack - A marginal offensive effect, but the AoE potential should not be underestimated.

Storm Guardian Spirit - A useful little ability. Annoy your DM by making your rogue hard to attack.

Note: I would consider multi-classing here, or simply keeping your amazing level 1 dailies.



Level 16, utility

Fate Weaver's Shield - Suffers from being a minor instead of an Immediate Interrupt.

Forge the Chains of Life - A big heal that can save someone from dying. But the trigger condition prevents it from being sky blue.

Spirit Binding - This is just not good enough to use a level 16 slot for.

Spirits of the Dancing Zephyr - A pattern is emerging here. Many of these zones are just simply not good enough to justify being a daily. A zone is not good just because it is a zone.

Note: You would not go wrong multi-classing here, or taking another lower level utility.


Level 17, Encounter

Call to the Lashing Behemoth - Goodness, if only this didn't target fort. Serious offensive tech, but it just isn't reliable.

Shackles of the Mountain - Damage with a terrible effect. Stay away.

Spirit Bond of Vengeance - Call to the Lashing Behemoth is better.

Spirit of Spring's Renewal - This is a big time power. You really have to hate being awesome to take this. Normally most of your encounter powers are pretty mediocre, but this one comes completely out of the blue, breaks into your house, wakes you up by pouring a bucket of water on you, ordering you to get dressed and shaved, and saying "GET UP FOOL, WE'RE GOING MINI-GOLFING!". Take this.



Level 19, Daily

Great Bear Guardian - The attack is bad, but the conjured bear is freaking sweet. Mucho potential here.

Horns of the Undefeated Khan - Another mediocre attack, but the effect is extreme. This definitely can turn the tide of battle against a solo or elite. What more is there to ask for from a daily?

Spirit of the Shield Breaker - More good tech. Level 19 is starting to look at lot like level 1...

Tendrils of the Fate Weaver - This is actually at the high end of black. But if you're taking this for defensive tech, Great Bear Guardian is better.

Powers: The Epic Tier



Level 22, Utility

Oh boy, another good level.

Bounty of Life - Depending on your party make-up, this might be black. But this can potentially be a lot of healing over the course of an intense fight.

Call the Dead - HAHAHAHAHA. This power is simply off-the-charts absurd. You may never have to use this power, but it is so incredible that it's probably still worth it to take.

Doorway to the Spirit World - FINALLY! A truly amazing zone power. Insubstantial is the real deal. Using this power WILL make the difference between life and death.

Spirit of the World Healer - Literally the best single target heal in the game.

Note: This might be the best bunch of utilities of any class at any level. Truly impressive.


Level 23, Encounter

Call to the Primal Protector - The rider pushes this over the top into blue.

Call to the Relentless Hunter - Targets fort. Blah effect.

Spirit of the death Raven - Targets will and has a risky, but potentially beastly, effect. A fun power.

Twin Tempest Spirits - I used this power in a delve and I must admit, I laughed out loud when the effect went off. Everything about this power is win.


Level 25, Daily

Ironborn Spirit - I'm only rating this purple because it's a level 25 power. Dailies at this level need to be better than this to be picked. It targets fort, but the attack doesn't really matter. Basically the question is, "will the zone be good enough to swing a difficult encounter in my favor?". I don't believe the answer to that is yes.

Spirit of the Laughing Wanderer - It targets will and stuns.

Spirit of the World Serpent - If nothing else, the results will be very funny. This power should be called Spirit of the Banana Peel.

Western Wind of Storms - Reset a fight. There will be times when it won't do much of anything at all. There will also be times when it absolutely saves the day.


Level 27, Encounter

Blood Reaper Spirits - You are not a stalker spirit and this targets fortitude. For pure personal DPR and fairly risky offensive tech, this isn't terrible. But you should really be conscious of the fact you are giving up much more versatile alternatives.

Call to the Cleansing Fire - Good saving throw tech. You can attack, then dismiss and resummon next to whoever needs the save the most.

Call to the Great Hunter - I've actually done some more thinking about this power. After some testing, I've actually found it to be useful if used intelligently. Essentially the reason to take this is if you have an ally that has a very high damaging Daily power that needs to hit to be effective. And then you just set him up.

Spirit of the Elder Wisdom - Excellent power. I wouldn't fault you if you took Call to the Cleansing Fire, but really this is the power to beat at this level.


Level 29, Daily. Holy Crap. No, seriously. Level 29!

Death Spirit - It's a pure damage ability. I have failed at my job if you take this.

Sea of Serpents - Good zone on a respectable AoE.

Spirits of Mist - This is just an exceptional power. Insubstantial is good times for you. And the AoE, even though it hits fortitude, is still respectable.

Spirit of the Unbroken Vow - Offensive tech, but you have better optons.

Feats: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly



If I fail to mention a feat, it is most likely because it is unusable, of very little use, or not applicable. I will note trap feats however.

Heroic Feats- Non-Racial

Alertness (PHB) - This is a pretty good tech option for you, provided you have taken chain mail. Perception is a great skill, and the whole not granting CA thing is decent. But if you don't have chain mail, you're probably going to get hit anyway. Bottom line- this is a situational feat that depends on what kind of campaign you run in.

Armor Proficiency: Chainmail (PHB) - Few classes have access to such a huge AC spike with one feat. The only problems here are having to set a 13 in STR and the fluff issue. Let me be clear, this is NOT a must-have feat. But it is very useful if you are willing to give up versatility in other ability scores. I essentially think it comes down to what race you choose; bonuses to STR or WIS and CON at the same time go chain mail, otherwise wait until epic tier or don't take this at all.

Blade Opportunist (PHB) - Gotcha! Just seeing if you're paying attention. Do NOT take this feat unless you have some weird multi-class in mind. But you really shouldn't be doing that either.

Combat Medic (PHB 2) - You never know when this might come in handy.

Distant Advantage (PHB 2) - I'm making a special note of this because some people might mistakenly take it. Distant Advantage does not work with your melee spirit powers. This will be useless on the vast majority of your turns.

Durable (PHB) - Two extra healing surges is never the worst thing you could take. But hopefully you will already have way more than enough surges to begin with thanks to your high CON. You'll know if your party's and DM's playstyle force you to take this by level 6 or so. Most of the time stay away.

Implement Expertise (PHB 2) - Ah, the wonders of feat inflation. It's this or chainmail at level 1. You should have this by level 2 at the latest.

Improved Initiative (PHB) - Initiative is surprisingly useful for you. You could do worse than this feat. However, you will likely want to retrain this in Paragon Tier.

Jack of All Trades - You are already one of the best skill challengers in the game. If you find yourself RPing a lot, this can be very useful to you. Can you say Speak with Spirits?

Protector Spirit Adept (PHB 2) - An untyped bonus to NAD's in a controllable AoE? Take this.

Quick Draw (PHB) - Comparable to Improved Initiative. More useful if you find yourself using potions a lot, (which you probably should if you're not a cheap bastard).

Restful Healing (PHB 2) - If you have the feat slots to spare, (very likely if you don't take chainmail), this is a sneaky-amazing feat. Because Healing Spirits heals one of its targets without forcing it to spend a surge, this can potentially be very powerful for long or special adventures. This is a big time healing surge conservation feat.

Ritual Caster (PHB) - I would argue that this is potentially very useful, but your mileage may vary. Access to rituals will only become more powerful over time as new spells are released. The only problem is it requires Arcana or Religion. This is a decent feat to take after multi-classing Cleric, for instance.

Shared Healing Spirit (PHB 2) - Not as useful as it first may seem. If you need to heal two people within two squares of each other, you have very little excuse for not having the pet adjacent to both targets anyway, as otherwise you are missing out on twice your CON mod in free extra healing.

Shield Proficiency: Light (PHB) - Only take this if you already have chainmail and aren't enamored with any other techy feats.

Shield Proficiency: Heavy (PHB) - You're spending an awful lot of feats now... And it is rare that you will have 15 STR. Not many shamans will end up taking this.

Spirit Speaker (PHB 2) - This is actually a very nifty RP and skill challenge feat.

Stalker Spirit Adept (PHB 2) - This is a great feat. However, you won't take it, seeing as how you will never meet the prereqs. This feat is NOT worth giving up the Protector Spirit boons.

Timely Respite (PHB 2) - Could save your party in rare situations combined with a Dwarf or an action point.

Toughness (PHB) - Similar to Durable, but slightly better.


Heroic Feats- Racial

Deva

Auspicious Lineage (PHB 2) - You never know.

Radiant Power (PHB 2) - Some people may like the extra damage. But jeez.

Potent Rebirth (PHB 2) - As the leader, I'd say it's sub-optimal to go unconscious on a consistent basis.

Elf

Elven Precision/Wild Elf Luck (PHB/FRPG) - Hitting that one important attack is a big deal for you. This is a very strong feat for shamans. Comparable to action surge in my opinion. Possibly Sky Blue.

Goliath

Markings of the Blessed (PHB 2) - Really nice insurance policy.

Markings of the Victor - Attack re-rolls are never bad. But this one isn't knock-your-socks off either.

Human

Action Surge (PHB) - Yup.

Human Perseverance/Stubborn Survivor (PHB/FRPG) - Could end up saving your butt. You probably have better options here.

Equipment: Arming Yourself

The Last Word: A Note on Strategic Play



Reserved.
keep going at it.
A final word on this bracket. Earthrage Spirit and Spirit of the Hawk's Wind are pretty good powers, but I would strongly urge you to take another level 1 daily here. All three of the good level 1 dailies are superior to any level 5 daily in my opinion.

Surely that's not a legal option? I'm pretty sure you can't have two powers from the same level, barring tricks like Adroit Explorer's.
Surely that's not a legal option? I'm pretty sure you can't have two powers from the same level, barring tricks like Adroit Explorer's.

You are always allowed to take a lower level power if no power at your current level is appealing. You just can't pick the same power twice. Adroit explorer lets you circumvent that restriction.
Spirits of Battle - It's a zone. But honestly it pales in comparison to the other three choices.

Seriously? Do you know what you can do with Spirits of Battle + Healing Guides (spirit tempest class feature).?

All bear shamans will want spirits of battle at paragon tier if they go for spirit tempest (and they should because it greatly expands your mobility and healing options).

Also, primal gust is amazing. It works on allies and enemies, requires no attack roll, and is an encounter power. There are tons of applications: push enemies off cliffs, set up a flank, save a squishy/ranged ally, place a squishy enemy next to your defender, etc.

Another point in general: Shamans can offer a fair number of "to hit" bonuses independent of their choice of bear or panther. This means that the bear shaman is better at healing than the panther shaman but can still take advantage of powers that allow for accurate "nova," rounds. I'd take advantage of this.
Would like to see what you think about the Bear Shaman's AC 'issue'. I'm one of the few who thinks that you can have a bear shaman withouth having to take Chainmail Prof. (although it's a really good choice to have one)
All bear shamans will want spirits of battle at paragon tier if they go for spirit tempest (and they should because it greatly expands your mobility and healing options).

There is a good deal of debate on what the Spirit Tempest feature actually does. There is one camp that believes it gives free extra healing, and there is another camp that believes it doesn't. I am in the second camp. From that point of view, it's really not a very good ability. Certainly not good enough to warrant taking zones just because they are zones.

Also: I'm glad to see people responding so soon! I appreciate it. I'm slowly but surely going down the list. I'll make sure to get to the AC issue as soon as possible. But in short, I strongly believe that there is no need to take chain mail if you are willing change up your playstyle as a result.
First, I don't think a 13 Str is as bad as many say. Chainmail is worth it (keep in mind it gives you access to new armor types like Dwarven and Exalted) but it also lets you pick up Warlord multiclass to pick up an extra skill and daily heal (which may be your biggest single target heal, as it currently adds your Spirit Boon bonus) as well as a Utility later (like one that gives saves that you have few of). Cleric multiclass may be better in some ways, but for those atheist-type Shaman, Warlord multiclass doesn't hurt.


Spirit of the Shielding Fire - Stay away from this. If you find yourself in desperate need of the ability to give someone 10 temp HP, you have bigger problems than which Daily to take at level 5.

I find I have to disagree. Being able to get an attack in retaliation to every hit on your tank for 2d6+ fire damage for a fight seems pretty amazing. Even if you have to stay within 5 squares. I would have to consider this at least dark blue.
I find I have to disagree. Being able to get an attack in retaliation to every hit on your tank for 2d6+ fire damage for a fight seems pretty amazing. Even if you have to stay within 5 squares. I would have to consider this at least dark blue.

This is certainly a good point, but two things. First, being forced to stay within 5 is actually a big deal. Especially when you consider my second point, which is, if a tank deals an extra 2d6+ fire damage every time the enemy hits it, Good DM's will simply stop hitting the tank and go attack a squishy. It's essentially the same problem battle ragers have. They are TOO good at taking hits.
There is a good deal of debate on what the Spirit Tempest feature actually does. There is one camp that believes it gives free extra healing, and there is another camp that believes it doesn't. I am in the second camp. From that point of view, it's really not a very good ability. Certainly not good enough to warrant taking zones just because they are zones.

I think the wording in Spirit Tempest is pretty clear in its intent.

Healing Guides (11th level): When you restore hit points with your healing spirit power, any ally adjacent to or within a conjuration or a zone that you created with a shaman power or a shaman paragon path power also regains hit points as if he or she were adjacent to your spirit companion.

This establishes and order in which first, you have to use your healing spirit power, and then any (and all, as it doesn't say one) ally of yours that is inside or next to a zone or conjuration of your gains de extra xd6 hitpoints.
I think the wording in Spirit Tempest is pretty clear in its intent.



This establishes and order in which first, you have to use your healing spirit power, and then any (and all, as it doesn't say one) ally of yours that is inside or next to a zone or conjuration of your gains de extra xd6 hitpoints.

The other side of the debate argues that it simply means that anyone in or adjacent to a zone is merely elligible for the extra healing granted by your spirit boon, if and only if the healing power is used on that ally.
Great guide so far, Wrylen. I'm looking forward to more input on the Bear Shaman. I'm currently playing a Dwarf Bear Shaman in a new campaign and I've loved him so far. I've been through one (very large) adventure and my Spirit Companion was indispensible.
Based on my play experience, here's a couple things I found important:
- You might want to explicitly state that many/most of the Shaman's non-Spirit Companion powers tend to have a range of 5 (Healing Spirits, the caster At-Wills, many of the encounter powers). I found myself thinking that these attacks were range 10 and then being dissapointed when I had to move uncomfortably close to the baddies.
- When I started my Shaman, I had Haunting Spirits as my chosen At-Will. Granting combat advantage is double the attack bonus granted by Watcher's Strike. However, I'm starting to agree with your sky blue rating of Watcher's Strike. Not only have I consistently found myself more than 5 squares away from baddies (unless I had to heal someone), but many times there's 2+ allies focus firing a baddie at melee range. I've also had a change of heart after fighting a number of imps who could turn invisible and hide. I was the only character to consistenly detect them, and Watcher's Strike could have been a godsend there.

That's all I really have for now. I'll be eagerly following your handbook, so keep at it! ^_^
The other side of the debate argues that it simply means that anyone in or adjacent to a zone is merely elligible for the extra healing granted by your spirit boon, if and only if the healing power is used on that ally.

I think that the word 'also' means that in addition to the ally next to the Spirit, any other ally next to conjurations and/or inside zones gain the xd6 hp too

EDIT: but I can always send CS a question if you'd like
I think that the word 'also' means that in addition to the ally next to the Spirit, any other ally next to conjurations and/or inside zones gain the xd6 hp too

EDIT: but I can always send CS a question if you'd like

It really needs to show up in the FAQ (along with whether your spirit shaman can fly and thus be positioned directly above an enemy and therefore grant its benefits to every ally adjacent to the enemy). Healing guides is poorly worded. I agree with your interpretation but there is obviously enough ambiguity to inspire debate.
Guardian of the Primal Copse - Stay away. Targets fort and gives an effect that will rarely be useful.

How is the effect rarely useful? Ready any action to go as soon as the target enemy (preferably a solo) does anything. You get the effect regardless of the hit. Now the enemy's defenses are all equal to its lowest defense for at least one round. Check out the monster manual. Will defense often lags 5-6 points behind AC. This is the equivalent of a free nova round (two if you are lucky) for your melee combatants (have your allies ready to go after you) and for anyone who has a power that targets fortitude. That the power itself targets fortitude is really unimportant; you are using this power to set up other attacks, not to do damage.
I was just browsing the L27 Encounter power list, and I noticed that you ranked Blood Reaper Spirits rather low. Sure, a damage bonus is only a decent benefit, but you can potentially play Striker for a round (three attacks in one round? That's potentially Ranger-level damage, folks.). It should be at least Black.

Thanks for the flattery, too.
@brotherjgizmo: Any help with CS would be much appreciated. Fabulous. If it turns out that healing guides is as good as we had hoped, then I will revisit my evaluations. I have no problem admitting I am wrong

@ppaladin123: You do make a valid point. However, to rebut: As far as the attack itself is concerned, targeting fortitude is the worst possible scenario for you, seeing as you never target AC and you have poor to average (at best) BAB's compared to most other classes. In addition, really the best case you can hope for with this power is to be facing a solo or elite. And even then, you can never count on it being truly useful. In general, when I use a daily, I want to be sure that I am doing something that will seriously affect the outcome of the fight. If my party is sufficiently built and optimized, the difference between my party hitting one target's lowest defense or any of there other defenses seems to me to be lackluster. Sure, there may be tailor made encounters that would make this daily seem pretty good, but in that case I'll be happy with the other power I chose instead, which will probably still be just as useful anyway.

@Lordduskblade: Actually, I tend to agree. My only comment is that I believe pure damage is inherently a weaker option than other techs, ESPECIALLY at higher levels. You really have to be dead set on personal DPR to give up extra saving throws or better tech, for example. And again, all things being equal, attacking fortitude is generally a bad thing. However, as a purely offensive tech option, I do think it warrants a black rating. Fixed :P
In general, when I use a daily, I want to be sure that I am doing something that will seriously affect the outcome of the fight. If my party is sufficiently built and optimized, the difference between my party hitting one target's lowest defense or any of there other defenses seems to me to be lackluster.

No matter how optimized your party is, a bonus 4 or 5 to hit for one or more rounds seems rather helpful. If your party's weapon attacks suddenly target Will instead of AC...well just imagine what a ranger or barbarian could do with that on a nova round. I really think the gap between defenses is commonly substantial enough to make this power worth taking.

I suppose I'll just have to respectfully disagree on this one.
No matter how optimized your party is, a bonus 4 or 5 to hit for one or more rounds seems rather helpful. If your party's weapon attacks suddenly target Will instead of AC...well just imagine what a ranger or barbarian could do with that on a nova round. I really think the gap between defenses is commonly substantial enough to make this power worth taking.

I suppose I'll just have to respectfully disagree on this one.

Well I certainly think your argument is articulated well enough to merit some testing. I happen to be planning some this weekend. I'll get my friends to whip a party together and see what this power can do under different situations. However, keep in mind that not everyone in the party hits AC. We'll see what happens
Well I certainly think your argument is articulated well enough to merit some testing. I happen to be planning some this weekend. I'll get my friends to whip a party together and see what this power can do under different situations. However, keep in mind that not everyone in the party hits AC. We'll see what happens

Yup...if your party is heavy on classes that mostly target will or reflex anyway this won't do all that much (unless you are fighting one of those high will/low fortitude leader types). I look forward to the results of your playtest.
Huh... This looks pretty interesting so far.

A list of CharOp Handbooks I'm currently updating:

Heart of the Dragon: A Dragonborn's Handbook

Infernal Wrath: A Tiefling's Handbook

mhuahaha, excellent! Thank you so much for the picture!
No problem! :D

A list of CharOp Handbooks I'm currently updating:

Heart of the Dragon: A Dragonborn's Handbook

Infernal Wrath: A Tiefling's Handbook

Watcher's Strike - Untyped attack roll and Perception bonuses. Extremely good strategic value here. If you get creative, you can even spread the bonus to you casters. You should think long and hard before you skip this power.

The +1 is nuts, thanks for pointing that out I almost missed it.

I dont have much experience, whats the use of +5 perception?
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The perception is basically icing on the cake, but it can come in handy when facing invisible or stealthy opponents.
Im having a hard time on the chain mail or no question. I am going to play a shaman tomorrow for the 1st time, at level 2. I dont know the DM.

Does the spirit have any defenses like AC, will, etc or does everything auto hit him?

Why do you hate things that attack fort so much? Is it because high fort guys are usually the ones who get close to the caster? I actually like thunder bears warning better than twin panthers because its a better "oh snap" button for when things have gone wrong.

I want to go 18/14 wis con on a dwarf before the bonuses. So at 20/16 I will be looking pretty good with the protecting stike and watchers strike.

Whats the least painful way to get chainmail on that build? Im sure the wis would have to go down by 2. I think dwarven durability (+2 healing surges, +con mod to surge value) and toughness (+5 hp per tier) combined can make up for not having chainmail, and 2 feats seems cheaper than 1 feat+13 str.

I think I may just go with the low AC and hope that my dwarven meatiness+tactics gets me through. I actually think being very squishy is more fun since it forces the party to protect you, and therefore work tactically.
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Hey Phil, first of all, good luck tomorrow.

The spirit, being a conjuration, has the exact same defenses that you do. Low AC for you means Low AC for the spirit.

I dislike things that target fortitude because, other than AC, fortitude is on average the highest monster defense. There are exceptions, but usually your attacks that target fort will hit less than any of your others.

Taking a 20 in WIS after racials is also known as 'wis spiking'. I'll add something about this into the guide. I think the only race that can get away with this is the Dwarf, not because of the feats, but because Dwarf is the only race that gets bonuses to both Wisdom and Con. I do agree that durability and toughness would be good options for you, however, make sure that you take implement expertise first.

Finally, going without AC is very doable, but do NOT play this character like you would others. You really need to hang back where it is safe. Any enemy that attacks your AC will hit you most of the time, so your mitigation needs to come from not even getting attacked in the first place. This means not rushing in and staying right next to the main combat. It also means always hanging around cover.

Good luck!
after much thought i had to scrap the build at the last minute- i got there and it was going to be a 3 man deal and we had an avenger and a cleric already, so I went with the invoker.

I did however settle on a dwarf build I would recommend, even though I didnt get to play it. go with the 18/13/13 wis con str. stat buy before racials and you get 20 to wis, a +2 con mod which will be +3 at level 4, and chainmail.
at epic you can get plate+heavy shield.
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Sidenote on the Dwarf:

Free proficiency with throwing hammers and warhammers, if you feel better with having a decent melee weapon, while still having a hand free for the Totem. Do this only if you think you're going to face some melee and plan on Melee Training to use Wis for your basic attacks. Little synergy to be gained from that otherwise, as you lead from the rear, not from the front.

Better to fight windmills than become a miller!

Sent Wizards CS the question:
Does the healing guides allow you to heal multiple allies xd6 hitpoints adjacent to or within a conjuration or a zone that you created with a shaman power? Or does it simply allow me to heal ONE ally as normal with the exception that he need not be adjacent to the Spirit companion but rather within a conjuration or zone?

They responded
We are continuing to work on your issue. If you have more information, update your question here:

Customer () 04/10/2009 06:17 AM
Does the healing guides allow you to heal multiple allies xd6 hitpoints adjacent to or within a conjuration or a zone that you created with a shaman power? Or does it simply allow me to heal ONE ally as normal with the exception that he need not be adjacent to the Spirit companion but rather within a conjuration or zone?


Subject
Healing Guides

Discussion Thread
Response (Support Agent) 04/14/2009 10:04 AM


All allies in the zone are affected by Healing Guides and regain hitpoints.

Please let me know if you need anymore help!
I have some questions about this feature:

Spirit Boon: any ally adjacent to your spirit companion regains additional HP equal to your con mod when he or she uses a second wind or you use a healing power on him or her.

1) if I use Spirit's shield, and the recipient of the wis mod healing is adjacent to my spirit, does he get con+wis mod in healing?

2) If i use healing spirit, and both targets are adjacent, one gets surge+con
mod and the other gets 1d6+con mod?

another question:

3) protecting strike says "each ally adjacent to your spirit gains temp hp equal to your con mod". does that mean I wouldnt get the hp if I was adjacent? What about with protector spirit adept, would I get the +1 to NADs as well?
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