Axioms of Striker Construction

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(1) A striker must be able to hit. More importantly, however, a striker must know when it is important to hit. Don't use an important ability when the circumstances are wrong. Save it until the circumstances are right to use it, or, better yet, make the circumstances right (spend an AP, take an attack in order to get combat advantages) and then use your ability.

(2) A striker should be able to choose his target, either through range or by mobility. Think of the common methods of obstruction or evasion, and choose your utility powers accordingly. This applies even to ranged Strikers: have a way to get close, and have a way to get to range. You'll get your extra striker damage more frequently that way.

(3) A striker should ration his damage. Try to gauge how many HP your target has, and put no more damage on the target than necessary to prevent that enemy from getting another turn. If the enemy is likely to die before his turn comes up again, pick a new target.

(4) A striker should choose powers that help him ration his damage. A power that is damage-poor but action-cheap can prevent wasteful damage overages. In particular, look at Ruffling Sting, Press the Advantage, Quicken Spell, and Trip Up. Any of these powers can tip an enemy over the line from 1[W] from dead to "entirely dead."

(5) A striker should use all of his actions. Think about your reactions and minor actions: they can contribute significantly to your burst damage Are they going to waste? If so, what can you do to use them? Every melee striker should consider Battle Awareness. If you've got the Wisdom, it really is that good.

(6) A striker, especially a melee striker, must ration his healing surges. Watch the party's other members. Don't take any hits you're not forced to. If you have stealth, use it in combat. Disappear around corners and hide behind cover.

(7) A striker can reach the back ranks more easily than other targets. Consider your role in controlling back-rank damage and back-rank focus fire.

(8) A striker should kill his enemies as soon as possible. Damage now is almost invariably better than damage later.

(9) A striker should frustrate or threaten attackers. Consider the position of the defender, the edges of zones and hazards, and your reactions and interrupts. Is attacking you a bad choice? Make it a bad choice. Also, consider how these factors work in conjunction. Does the DM know what will happen if you get hit? Unpredictable responses discourage the use of expendable resources.

(10) A striker should consider his DPS from three perspectives: constant damage output, encounter/action point spike damage output, and balls-out daily damage output. Encounter-level spike damage will happen early in the combat and to the first target you choose. It's more important than you think.

(11) A striker should decide whether to use a daily, and use it at the first reasonable opportunity. The marginal utility of daily powers decreases from round-to-round; the measured, early use of a daily can prevent the frantic, necessary use of a daily later.

(12) When your striker damage is conditional, have some way of ensuring that damage yourself. In particular, a rogue should "fill in the gaps" in combat advantage. Consider what you need to get your striker damage. This is another good use for your utility powers.

(13) A striker should consider his control powers. During the first rounds, wasting enemy actions may be more important than burning down their hitpoints: throughout the majority of your levels, one-shotting targets is unlikely. On the other hand, "dead" is by far the best status effect.

(14) A striker should consider delaying. Frequently, especially for a rogue, delaying can add striker damage when you otherwise wouldn't've been able to get it. Having said that, the main number you should be paying attention to is total number of meaningful enemy activations. If delaying would destroy an opportunity to reduce meaningful enemy activations, don't do it.

(15) More so than other character, a striker needs to be flexible in his role. Doing damage is the main thing you do, but if you're a melee striker, you will likely be the second or third most durable person in the party. When acting as a 'defender', remember (a) your reaction powers, and (b) your push/slide powers. You will frequently be able to bump an adjacent enemy off your squishy and, when you are the target, punish the enemy for attacking you.

(16) The surprise round is the most important round of a combat; it's free damage. Throughout much of the game, two striker encounter powers will take down a non-elite enemy; consequently, if you have high initiative and a surprise round, you may be able to knock out a single standard enemy before any enemy gets to act. The importance of this in shifting the momentum of the battle cannot be understated.

(17) However, you will seldom be adjacent to an enemy during that surprise round. Ranged rogues and sorcerers love this: they can start shooting and dealing striker damage immediately. Things are more difficult for other characters. Warlocks may want to carry around a quickcurse rod to start doing Striker damage immediately. Rangers may want to invest in taking a whole turn during the surprise round. Barbarians and (strangely) Rogues may want to invest in charge-enhancing feats and abilities in order to be able to land a striker-damage hit during the very first round.

(18) Pursuit Avengers and Defender|Strikers are not Strikers. They aren't Defenders, either. Their "role," such as it is, is back-rank lockdown and prevention of focus-fire. As ranged enemies can focus-fire much, much more effectively than melee enemies, this is more important than it sounds. Get in there as quickly as possible. You'll quickly find out you're not useless.
Every melee striker should consider Battle Awareness. If you've got the Wisdom, it really is that good.

A once-per-encounter basic melee attack (that *might* get triggered) doesn't seem so great to me.
A once-per-encounter basic melee attack (that *might* get triggered) doesn't seem so great to me.

It's an extra melee basic attack, immediate reaction, when the target attacks someone other than you. Unlike the actual fighter ability upon which it's based, it doesn't require you to have marked the enemy. As a melee striker, you will quite frequently be paired with the defender to avoid getting mobbed. This puts enemies in a double-bind: attack the Defender (and take your attack) or attack the Striker (and suffer the Defender's mark effect.)

Think of it this way: it's a Level 1 immediate reaction encounter power, doing 1[W]+Str, that can be modified by MBA-enhancing items and which triggers off of an incredibly common occurrence. You can get it for the cost of a feat, it doesn't take up a power slot, and it opens up the vast number of Fighter feats and powers that a melee striker might want.
A once-per-encounter basic melee attack (that *might* get triggered) doesn't seem so great to me.

Imagine if you had an encounter power that said, Immediate Interrupt, hit a guy that attacks an ally.

Now consider you get that encounter power for free, as opposed to needing to power swap it in with a feat.

It's really good. My barbarian loves it.
Think of it in terms of damage per encounter.

If you are a barbarian with weapon focus and you attack 6 times during an encounter you gained 6 damage from weapon focus.

If your basic attack does an average of 15 damage then you gain 15 damage from the battle awareness feat. Occasionally the free attack won't trigger. So call it 12 to be safe.

In low level games the fight is often decided before the single target strikers even get 6 attacks.

Both of my above damage numbers are subject to misses. You can halve both of them or whatever to take that into account.

Just do the math for your character based on how many attacks you take versus how much your basic attack does.
Mike Donais. Cryptozoic R&D
That's a really, really, good original post.

*bump*
I think a lot of thinking about strikers is warped by the focus on DPR over action-economy and cost/benefit analyses. The amount of damage is important, of course, but also (a) how fast you do it, (b) to whom you do it, and (c) how many expendable resources, and which ones, your damage costs.

The ideal striker deals exactly enough damage to kill the enemy that is likely to deplete the most party resources, he does so without taking damage, and he does so on the first round. After that, he deals damage to second-choice targets and takes damage at a rate proportional to his healing surges.

If you compare what your striker actually does to this paradigm, you can see which parts of the character are fine and which you need to shore up.
There is some good info here.

I do have to disagree with,
(3) A striker should ration his damage. Try to gauge how many HP your target has, and put no more damage on the target than necessary to prevent that enemy from getting another turn. If the enemy is likely to die before his turn comes up again, pick a new target.

I get the concept, but it could use some clarification.

It is better to make sure you kill something instead.

For example, a foe is almost dead. You use twin strike. Do you?
a) fire both arrows at the almost dead foe?
b) Ration your damage, shooting 1 at the almost-dead, and 1 elsewhere?

In this case, you pick A. Potentially doing a small amount of damage to a new target is FAR inferior to the risk of missing your almost-dead foe (or not quite killing him) and thus granting it an extra action/flank chance, etc.


Same with picking powers. You wouldnt want to use a 1W power as an avenger against a foe with low (but unknown) HPs. It is better to use a bigger power and make sure it dies, rather than use a 1W, THEN have to waste yet another turn next round to 'kill' it again.


My point is that it is not a 50/50 risk/reward proposition to use a lesser attack against a foe.

It's not worth being too stingy on the damage output if there is a high risk of not killing.

On the other hand, using a 7W power against an almost dead foe is a bad idea because there is very little risk of the 3W power NOT killing the foe. The tiny risk does not justify the use of the very expensive 7W power.
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You might also add a piece about knowing what other roles you can fill. Occasionally your striking is not going to be a high priority, either because damage isn't the important part of the encounter or because something unexpected happens and the party needs to scramble. If you can brainstorm on the theoretical question "What would I do if I needed to protect the wizard for a few turns?" before combat ever happens, then you're more prepared for the day when you have to play feux-defender.
A good post, though one minor nit-pick: only points 1, 2, and 4 really seem to be about striker 'construction' as opposed to theories of how to play a striker.

I'll chime in with my support for point 11, though -- look at the fight setup and decide if you want to use a daily or not, then do it as soon as it's practical. Using a daily power early enough can turn what looks like a challenging fight into a significantly easier fight.

People I've played with seem to be in the habit of saving their dailies for the 'big fight', but the reality is that even as early as 3rd level, each character in the party has two daily powers available, and your party probably don't need to use 10 dailies to get through the big boss-fight.

--
Pauper

People I've played with seem to be in the habit of saving their dailies for the 'big fight', but the reality is that even as early as 3rd level, each character in the party has two daily powers available, and your party probably don't need to use 10 dailies to get through the big boss-fight.

I think a single encounter where using so many dailies would actually still be helpful (as opposed to being overkill or being necessary) would be really fun. An epic, all-out battle between the party and the lich's undead army, or something of that scope. Something that you should probably run from, but is way too awesome to ignore.

On a more constructive note: These are really amazing tips. They've helped me rethink what it is to be a striker, and I want to play one really badly now. Ophite, could you do some of these for the other roles? The CO Board would be indebted to you if you did.

Also, point #4 isn't complete. It says "Any of these powers can tip the," but doesn't finish.
Card Dump!

Keywords
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It is better to make sure you kill something instead.

For example, a foe is almost dead. You use twin strike. Do you?
a) fire both arrows at the almost dead foe?
b) Ration your damage, shooting 1 at the almost-dead, and 1 elsewhere?

In this case, you pick A. Potentially doing a small amount of damage to a new target is FAR inferior to the risk of missing your almost-dead foe (or not quite killing him) and thus granting it an extra action/flank chance, etc.

For several reasons, I think your approach is often wrong.

(1) The most efficient goal is not to kill the enemy on your turn. Instead, you want to kill the enemy before it acts again. This comes up again ater.

(2) If you've paid attention to controlling your damage output, you have two (or three) chances to drop the same low-HP enemy.

Let's say I'm a rogue adjacent to a monster with 8 HP remaining. I pop Disheartening Strike and miss. Sad day. Okay, fine. Now I pop Low Slash. I hit and kill him. On the same turn, I can take my move action to flank another enemy, potentially using Battle Awareness to take an attack if I'm not that monster's chosen target. Alternatively, if he decides to hit me, I can pop my daily riposte and hit him back.

(3) If you have more than a 50% chance to kill the enemy, you win out over the long run even if you have no off-action attacks.

(4) Low-HP enemies don't require striker damage to kill. If there's a solid buffer of allies between your initiative and your enemy's, the wizard may be able to catch him on the fringe of an AoE, the fighter you're flanking with may be able to drop an attack and maim him, your warlord may grant you attack to try again, or the ranger may send one of his multiattacks the enemy's way.

Only when the enemy is due to act on the initiative after yours are you required to hit again.
People I've played with seem to be in the habit of saving their dailies for the 'big fight',

On a more constructive note: These are really amazing tips. They've helped me rethink what it is to be a striker, and I want to play one really badly now. Ophite, could you do some of these for the other roles? The CO Board would be indebted to you if you did.

Some of the tips, like usage of Encounter/Daily powers is applicable to all roles.

It is definitely true that the earlier you get off your big attacks the better.

With a party of 5 characters, and an average of 4 encounters per extended rest, even at first level you should be able to ration one daily per battle (and still have a spare for a major battle).

Have one person assess the situation early and call out whose daily is best to use (depending on opponent type, layout, etc). Sometimes it may be wise to have the daily for someone in the middle order of initiative so get a few actions to identify minions, the threat level, set up buffs for the daily, etc.

Using a daily at the start of the a battle, rather than waiting until things get desperate helps conserve other powers. e.g. if things go bad you may end up using 2-3 dailies at the end to save the fight.

On a similar note, about half the party should use action points every battle. You should also use encounter powers earlier rather than later.

So, a typical first/second round may look like: (A) At-will (identify if may be a minion), (B) Encounter, (C) At-will (maybe more minion), AP, Encounter, (D) AP, Daily, Encounter, (E) At-will, minor action Encounter, 2nd round (A) Encounter.

Another key tactic is concentrated fire ... the ranger should quarry (and attack) the same enemy the warlock has cursed (and attacks), and that the rogue has CA against.

This is related to target prioritisation -- take out the enemy that is going to do the most damage to the party relative to the difficulty of taking them out; that means minions first, then enemy controllers, ranged (usually weaker defenses), lurkers, soliders and then finally brutes.

I also advocate the defender attacking the same target if possible, although sometimes it may be better for them to sticky a low priority target that is a danger to the strikers (e.g. sticky a brute). If possible a defender can do both, e.g. a Paladin can challenge a brute and move next to them, yet attack the concentrated fire target.

Concentrated fire can also be more important than bonus damage, e.g. a warlock should still attack the concentrated fire target even if they have cursed someone else (the target may not be the closest).

Similarly, a rogue should generally attack the concentrated fire target even if they have combat advantage against a different creature.

The value of eliminating an enemy before they get any more actions is generally far more than any bonus damage you would do.
Updated with a few more axioms.
Teamplaying not being mentioned is a crime. The list could really use a short blurb on it.
Mountain Cleave Rule: You can have any sort of fun, including broken, silly fun, so long as I get to have that fun too (e. g., if you can warp reality with your spells, I can cleave mountains with my blade).
My own Striker guide is up:

The Art of Striking

@Ophite: You make a number of very good points. If you don't mind, I'll steal some of them for my "Advanced Techniques" section.
A once-per-encounter basic melee attack (that *might* get triggered) doesn't seem so great to me.

This feat is GOLD to a Brutal Scoundral Rogue that just hit with Riposte Strike.

Enemy can:
Shift - free attack
Move - free attack
Attack me - free attack
Attack someone that is not me - free attack
Twiddle their thumbs - Doh! I can't stop this.
You really shouldn't dig up posts that are 3 months old...
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Think of it in terms of damage per encounter.

If you are a barbarian with weapon focus and you attack 6 times during an encounter you gained 6 damage from weapon focus.

If your basic attack does an average of 15 damage then you gain 15 damage from the battle awareness feat. Occasionally the free attack won't trigger. So call it 12 to be safe.

In low level games the fight is often decided before the single target strikers even get 6 attacks.

Both of my above damage numbers are subject to misses. You can halve both of them or whatever to take that into account.

Just do the math for your character based on how many attacks you take versus how much your basic attack does.

Yes.

You should use the same rationale when applying healing powers, action granting powers, etc. You should also consider your group dynamic (my party warlord will give me ~2 basic attacks per encounter pretty reliably ... thus weapon focus isn't just based on actions I initiate on my turn but also others, etc.)
You really shouldn't dig up posts that are 3 months old...


Don't matter how old the post is, good thinking and well considered priciples should be seen and thought about.

@ophite: nice post. I love it and wish all of my gaming group would see it and read it.
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