Major props to Andarious for writing up nearly the entire showcase this time around. Both TS and I were swamped with life, so Andarious stepped up to the plate and did the lion’s share of the leg work here.
As usual for the showcase, these builds are intended to spur discussion and perhaps inspire a few people in the spirit of the old CO boards. They come from members of my gaming group - me, Andarious, DisposableHero_, TempestStormwind, Sionnis, and Seishi - and I'll always identify who wrote the build at the start, so do not assume I'm the guy behind all of them
(because I'm not!).
Unless otherwise noted, showcase builds use 28 point-buy, and have their snapshots evaluated using fractional base attack / saves (because it simplifies the math). None of them actually rely on fractional to be built, though. The format I use showcases their progression at key levels rather than just presenting the build and showing off a few tricks at level 20; most of these are capable of being played 1-20 if you so choose.
With that out of the way, let's get started. First up this week, we’ve got an Andarious build for you.
THE EVASION TANK
“When fighting angry blind men, is best to stay out of the way.”
Required Books: Players Handbook, Tome of Battle, Complete Warrior, Magic Item Compendium
Unearthed Arcana used: Nadda, go ahead and milk the flaws if you want though.
Background: The theory used here goes back once again to Andarious’ WoW playing days. As he said “A few years since I played, but something I remember was that mitigation saved the healer a lot more than having tons of HP. High AC and Miss chance are all well and good but what about the option to just say NO, that doesn’t hit? Well here it is. I also love Jackie Chan films [as the 2010 Karate Kid quote
above indicates] and couldn’t help but notice just how silly this build makes the people attacking it look. Finally, yes I use ToB and Complete Warrior a lot, and that’s easy to explain. I snuck a few e-books onto my work computer and the only actual D&D books among those were these two. This ended up with me studying them very closely in down time.” His studies, to put it lightly, bore fruit.
- Race: Human (It ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it. This build is feat starved.)
- Ability Scores: 14/14/14/14/10/8. Welcome to why Monks suck, don’t worry we’ll fix it. As available a +1 Manual of Dex and a +1 Tome of Wis should be applied. All other increases should go to Str, it is just meat and potatoes for melee damage and winning opposed checks.
Concentration, Tumble, Hide, Move Silently, Balance, Jump, Martial Lore and some skill tricks. The build has enough ranks, distributed well enough to keep most of the mentioned skills at or near max by 20.
A spiked chain. Smoke Sticks (later) or an Eversmoking Bottle is even better; concealment is a lovely thing.
Magical Gear Goals:
You will have to pay the usual melee character gold tax (a weapon and stat boosters). Boost your stats following the priority of Str>Wis>Con>Dex>Int, and leave Cha to rot. Serpent Armor (MIC) goes a long way, giving the feat starved build access to Combat Reflexes. Anything to improve his ability to Trip, Grapple and Disarm helps as well.
Build Stub: Monk2/Fighter2/Swordsage2/Warblade9/Master of Nine5
1 – Monk – (Unarmed Strike, AC Bonus, Decisive Strike) (Improved Grapple, Dodge, Mobility) *
Okay, a fairly weak opening, I’ll admit. It’s that bad monk I warn everyone not to build, we’ll get there though.
2 – Monk – (Evasion) (Deflect Arrows) *
The reason this build is named Evasion Tank? It tanks, but not through HP, not even really through AC, but through denial of chances to hit. That begins now with one simple step. Note that this doesn’t use your Attacks of Opportunity or your immediate action.
3 – Fighter – (Combat Expertise, Improved Trip)
4 –Fighter – (EWP: Spiked Chain)
5 – Swordsage – (Quick to Act +1, discipline focus (Weapon Focus:Shadow Hand)) (Moment of Perfect Mind, Action Before Thought, Burning Brand, Cloak of Deception, Clever Positioning, Counter Charge) (Island of Blades) *
We start counter and boost heavy, because these abilities scale well and help with the defensive nature of the build. Also, you’ll notice the build suddenly sucks a lot less with the addition of a single Swordsage level. It’s amazing!
6 – Swordsage – (AC Bonus) (Adaptive Style) (Distracting Ember) (Flame’s Blessing) *
A staple feat, a helpful boost and a stance that lets him walk into hell unscathed.
7 – Warblade – (Battle Clarity (Reflex Saves),Weapon Aptitude) (Claw At The Moon, Disarming Strike, Wall of Blades) (Hunter’s Sense) *
So wait, seemed like a good thing going with Swordsage, why mess that up going Warblade? Big dreams, you’ll see. Offensive Maneuvers belong in this school. Access to Disarming Strike and Wall of Blades provides further shut down kung fu.
8 –Warblade – (Iron Heart Surge)
9 –Warblade– (Battle Ardor (Critical Confirmation)) (Elusive Target) (Mind Over Body) *
Some good stuff going on. Elusive Target is the staple feat of this build, and the only reason I can think to take Dodge over Expeditious Dodge.
10 –Warblade– (Mithril Tornado replaces Claw At the Moon) (Pearl of Black Doubt) *
Whirlwind Trip, go ahead.
11 –Warblade– (Blind Fight) (Tactical Strike)
12 –Warblade– (Improved Uncanny Dodge) (Improved Disarm) *
Don’t discount the power of disarms with Mithril Tornado and attacks of opportunity, especially since you can already trip. When they stand up from prone, use the AoO to disarm them. When they pickup their weapon, use the AoO to trip them. It can get quite ridiculous.
13 –Warblade– (Battle cunning (damage)) (Covering Strike)
14 –Warblade– (Disrupting Blow replaces Tactical Strike) *
Action denial from Disruptive Strike gives you an offensive defense. If they can’t do anything, they can’t hit you. It’s also a Will save effect, making it quite effective against the usual melee opponent demographic.
15 –Warblade– (Improved Initiative, Shadow Blade) (Greater Insightful Strike)
16 –Master of Nine– (Manticore Parry, Scorpion Parry) *
Finally some more hard stops. With these added to his Warblade list, he is able to shut down two attacks per round when flanked, and turn his opponents strengths against each other.
17 –Master of Nine– (Dual Stance) (Hydra Slaying Strike) (Hearing the Air) *
You’re very effective against other humanoid opponents, but big monsters with enormous natural full attack routines are a serious threat. Hydra Slaying Strike is a good counter to them; they can make only one attack a round after you hit them with that, and one attack in a round is easy for you to counter.
18 –Master of Nine– (Perfect Form) (Martial Stance) (Fool’s Strike, Adamantine Hurricane) (Ghostly Defense) *
This guy needs an Eversmoking Bottle now. He can out perform most foes in a situation where they will both have miss chance. And as if that weren’t enough, he also packs Blind Fight and Hearing the Air. Now foes that miss him due to miss chance hit their buddies instead.
19 –Master of Nine– (Counter Stance) (Diamond Defense) (Stance of Alacrity) *
With all those immediate action counters, switching to Stance of Alacrity, and then using another counter is just a natural little combo.
20 –Master of Nine– (Mastery of Nine) (Tornado Throw, Time Stands Still)
This build is designed to function as a group’s only melee character. If everyone else is busy blasting, using archery, controlling, what have you, that’s the Evasion Tank’s ideal. If everyone else is invisible and this guy appears to be a one man army? That’s even better.
First things first, the Evasion Tank’s Kung Fu is pretty good. Having two martial classes allows for a lot of counters and boosts to be prepared. Here’s the load out at 20.Warblade Typical Readied Maneuvers
Tornado Throw, Time Stands Still, Diamond Defense, Addamantine Hurricane, Fool's Strike, Manticore Parry, Scorpion Parry, Iron Heart Surge, Wall of BladesSwordsage Typical Readied Maneuvers
Moment of Perfect Mind, Action Before Thought, Counter Charge, Cloak of Deception
The evasion tank can begin most combats by moving himself into a seemingly vulnerable position (perhaps via Tornado Throw, actually setting up a tight multiflank). The first time an opponent attempts to hit the Evasion Tank, they will hit an ally instead (Manticore Parry), allowing him to Counter Stance into Stance of Alacrity and then cause another hit to backfire (Scorpion Parry), as well as ensuring that the dodge target is going to hit someone else (Elusive Target’s Diverting Defense). If combat continues for more than a round or so this way creating concealment through equipment or ally intervention allows this guy to further confound his foes. Of course, all of this can change with a full round action thanks to Adaptive Style. But as it stands, this allows for obscene crowd control in melee, as well as plenty of single target counters and the ability to make people look silly, alone or in groups.
Number wise, you hit level 20 with 213 average hit points, a base attack of +17, and saves of 18/17/13 (that Reflex save includes battle clarity, and note that you have evasion). While those hit points are acceptable but not amazing for a tank, remember that most enemies will be lucky to scratch them.
Good kung fu. This monk like character barely touches the D&D class that’s supposed to do this well (Monk). Then it proceeds to barely touch the class that everyone gets pointed to for a monk like character that does monk better (Swordsage). Finally it uses some warrior classes (Fighter and Warblade) to bring it all together, and drive it into the true Martial Artist it was meant to be (Master of the Nine). Melee battlefield control without Thicket of Blades and Stand Still is kind of rough, but by disarming and tripping this build pulls it off with style. The ability to fight within a smoke screen is just good clean Ninja fun. The only way for enemies to exhaust your counters is to dogpile you with more attacks than you can respond to - and if everyone’s forced to dogpile on the tank (especially a tank with improved uncanny dodge), he’s doing his job right.
Avoiding hits the way this build does is considerably more efficient than tanking through HP, and more reliable than tanking through AC or miss chance. The party healer ought to be less concerned about this guy than they would be about a fighter. A +5 initiative bonus BEFORE your Dex modifier also helps ensure that desirable positioning can happen prior to most opponents acting.
Overall Weaknesses: Will save is the standard issue here, though you’ve got a better will than most tanks. Ranged combat is a problem as well. These are typical problems with melee characters. Use gear to shore up the reach problem by increasing speed and providing flight. Counters (Moment of Perfect Mind, Diamond Defense) help with the will saves a lot, even if being gang mind raped. Consider a Desert Wind Cloak with Leaping Flame if you find ranged attackers to be a nuisance.
You could move most of the Mot9 levels earlier in order to get access to the class features and an earlier boost to power level. Would not be a challenge at all to move Mot9’s first level to as early a slot as 8. This is a good option for a game slated to mature before 20 (as many do). If you’d rather have +1 dodge to AC than 23 skill points, going Azurin and taking Midnight Dodge instead of Dodge is an option.
There you have it. A kung fu master designed to either challenge a melee heavy party, as an NPC encounter or to act as the primary diversion of an otherwise melee character deprived party. Slap a bulls eye on this guy and let him run off into the fray.
Next up: [DH] Psycarnum Warrior
, just to get it off the roster.