Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Player's Handbook 3 Debut: The Monk

This month's PHB3 Debut consists in one of the builds for the final version of the Monk class. It is the same build (Centered Breath Monk) that we were presented six months ago as a playtest article, and the changes from one article to the other are nowhere near as many as I would have expected.

From my experience playing with monks, I had the impression that not only were they slightly underpowered as Strikers, but they were also missing something in the 'special' department. The thing is, they do have a unique, fun mechanic in full disciplines (which add both great mobility and flexibility), and the playtest version of flurry of blows was different enough from previously see striker damage mechanics, but still... that didn't seem to be enough. The Unarmed Combatant and Unarmed Defense features were basically a wash, since they changed the aesthetics of the class (no weapons, no armor) in a way that made no mechanical difference. Monks needed a power boost to become competitive, and some kind of new feature to become interesting.

They got their power boost all right, but it turns out that the feature that could make it all work was already there, and only needed a small tweak. Here is the complete list of changes from the playtest version.

  • Changed all weapon powers to implement powers. The monk is now a purely implement-based class, though they can use any weapon they are proficient with as an implement.
  • Monk Unarmed Strike is no longer enchantable, but the same effect can be achieved with a new Magic Item type, Ki Focuses (First seen in the Assassin class description).
  • Overall damage increase, affecting a lot of powers as well as the Flurry of Blows feature.
  • Centered Flurry of Blows now always slides your target, and can actually move it away from you if it wasn't the victim of your original attack.
The first three points are fine, addressing balance concerns and cleaning up the class mechanics. The last one, though, is what finally made everything click for me. Sliding someone every turn is exactly the kind of trick that could make the class stand apart, and the only reason I didn't think of it before is because it was already there, but didn't work quite right.

See, the early implementation was terribly clunky, in that you could only slide a guy if you hadn't targeted him with an attack, and he had to end adjacent to you. So you ended up adjacent to at least two enemies, which is an uncomfortable position for a striker, as even with the monk's increased mobility, it's not that easy to get away from that without taking multiple opportunity attacks. The slide was still a cool maneuver, particularly in any scenario with hampering terrain, but it took a bit too much effort to pull off.
The new version of the flurry slide may not seem too much at first, but it is way, way better. First of all, moving someone away is more often than not what a Striker wants to do with forced movement, particularly when that someone isn't your main target. Depending on your at-will selection, you could have the option of pushing your primary target and running away, or knocking him prone and shifting just short of charge range, which combine well with the ability of sliding away another enemy (or enemies, at Paragon tier and beyond). And second, but also important, moving one or more enemies every turn grants you an amazing control of the battlefield.

Overall, Monks look like a really fun class that can pull its weight in a battle. They have great mobility, and decent single-target damage, but they also have pretty good area attacks, and can kill minions like nobody's business. I'm pretty certain that the Centered Flurry's slide will drive many DMs crazy, and turn any map with a pit into a celebration for PCs. Which is a pity, because I will probably be on the DM side when I see it. My only complaint is that they have only released one feat for the class so far, but thankfully we can houserule some more while we wait for PHB3.
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Monday, November 23, 2009

November errata: Adventurer's Vault, Avengers, and a lot more!

It had been a while since the last rules update (the brief, but excellent july errata), and some of us were starting to think that issuing errata was no longer considered a priority for Wizards. Nothing farther from the truth! Last week, and coinciding with the monthly DDI update, they released a truly massive errata changing well over a hundred rules issues for almost every book between Player's Handbook and Divine Power.

Some of these were merely typos or minor stuff such as missing keywords, but there is also a whole lot of very significant concerns that have been fixed, including some of the most broken magic items in the game, and fundamental changes in the gameplay of classes such as Avengers, Barbarians, Swordmages and Warlocks. It's impossible to comment on all of it - the whole errata document, including previous updates, now covers a whopping 58 pages, but I'll talk about the highlights. Also, I have compiled a list of changes for each book, which I provide at the end of the article.

1- Adventurer's Vault.

AV is the book that is changed the most, both in number and significance of the changes. The most striking one is probably the complete overhaul to the rules of double weapons, which were way too good, particularly in the hands of Tempest Fighters and Rogues. The new ruling now treats each end as a separate weapon with different keywords - among other things, not all of them count as off-hand anymore. Also, a new keyword 'Stout', has been defined to allow some of them to count as two-handed (which is no longer the default assumption). Finally, the weapons themselves have been adjusted - For example, the infamous Double Sword has a reduced damage die and loses the Heavy Blade keyword, whereas the Double Axe is no longer Defensive.

Apart from that, there are lots of revised magic items, including well-known offenders such as Reckless and Bloodclaw weapons. Most items causing saving throw penalties have been weakened, too, though a few are still missing. Other notable changes include preventing Ritualist Ring from granting discounts to item creation, and stopping reagents from working with at-will powers.

2- Avenger

This is a change that will affect almost every Avenger character out there, as Armor Proficiency (Leather) is no longer a valid feat choice. The Armor of Faith class feature has been changed to work only in Cloth Armor, removing the potential for ridiculously high AC scores (well above those of any Defender class) at Epic Tier. A well deserved fix, in my opinion, since the class' defenses and HP are quite good even without Leather.

3- Barbarian

The first of the Barbarian fixes is a small one: Halflings and Gnomes can now be Barbarians! These races' inability to wield two-handed weapons ruled out most PHB2 at-will powers from that class, but these have been modified so that versatile weapons wielded two-handed are a valid option. Not that they will make particularly powerful builds, but at least they will be possible.

The second fix is balance-related, as it consists on weakening the two strongest encounter powers of the class (and, it could be argued, the whole game). Storm of Blades and Hurricane of Blades were multiattack powers capable of dealing absurd amounts of damage. This change leaves Hurricane of Blades as a bit too good to my taste, but tolerably so. Storm of Blades, on the other hand, seems very reasonable to me now.

4- Swordmage

The silly rule about losing your Swordmage Warding when you were knocked out has been removed, which makes a lot of sense. Although it didn't come up too often, that was an annoying drawback for a class that didn't really deserve it. As another minor boost, the Ensnaring Aegis feature from Arcane Power (as well as any other Aegis that may appear in the future) is now compatible with the feats Double Aegis and Total Aegis, which is a good thing because they are almost essential for high level Swordmages.

5- Warlock

If there is a thing I always hated about the Warlock class, it was its complete inflexibility regarding your selection of at-wills, once you had chosen your pact. There is a change in this rule update that is a small step in the right direction, in this regard: the power Eldritch Strike, which was published as a power card handed out with the Player's Handbook Heroes minis, has been errata-ed so that it can now be taken instead of Eldritch Blast. The power itself is a bit weird, in that it is a melee weapon attack (and a basic one, to boot) on an otherwise completely ranged, implement class. But anything that gets rid of Eldritch Blast is good, in my book.

With this, I have barely scratched the surface of the update, but you can probably have an idea of the most relevant modifications. I strongly recommend to take a look at the whole thing, but you should be warned that it is not a light reading by any means. I don't know how useful it will be, but below you can see a list of all the changes made, for each book.

Read More......

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Forbidden Treasures: Adventurer's Vault weapons and armor

Update: This article really got hit by the Great November Errata, which brought many improvements to the game and particularly to Adventurer's Vault. Many weapons in my list were fixed - some of them just as I proposed, others solving a completely different problem than the one I had found!

I continue my series about broken magic items, with the first article dedicated to Adventurer's Vault. AV is a very complicated book, with a vast amount of items and an above-average concentration of problematic stuff, so today's long list will only cover magic armor and weapons. I explained my criteria for determining overpoweredness in the opening article, but given the length of today's list, I have also introduced a clasification of broken weapons, to quickly identify what is wrong with each one, from my point of view. The three categories are Damage Bonus, for those offering a large, continuous boost to damage (which isn't what a 4E weapon enchantment should do), Critical Bonus, for excessive critical hit triggers (also damage boosters, though in a less regular way) and Save Penalty, for items penalizing saving throws (dangerous in combination with stunning effects). Weapons that don't fall in any of these categories are listed as Miscellaneous.



Problem - AC bonus. With the help of your party leader, it's not that difficult to stay out of bloodied range for the majority of turns of each encounter, if you have a good reason to do so. The defense bonus from that armor is usually well worth it and, as a consequence, it becomes almost permanent. Furthermore, at higher tiers it becomes even better, without requiring that much of an investment in Dexterity - a character with a mere starting Dex value of 13 can naturally benefit from the increased bonus at Paragon, and only at Epic tier would he need to increase that ability in order to gain maximum benefit. These bonuses should be much more limited, both in duration and in requirements.
Solution - Change the property to "Property: While have maximum hit points, you gain an item bonus to AC equal to one half your Dexterity modifier up to a maximum of +1."
Comment - The bonus is way harder to keep active, but this will still come up at least a few rounds every encounter. Also, changing the ability requirement ensures the item is aimed at characters that are actually agile, instead of virtually everybody.


Problem - Damage Bonus. The bonus is very respectable. Frequently active under normal circumstances, and with a reckless strategy you can make it work almost every turn.
Solution - Change property to "While you are bloodied if an enemy has damaged you since your last turn, you deal +1d6 damage when you hit with this weapon."
Comment- The requirement of actually getting hurt by enemies makes abusing this much more complicated. It's still possible to get a virtually continuous bonus if enough enemies focus on the character, but it will be hard for an offense-oriented character to survive in that scenario. Extra damage for defensive characters is much less troublesome.

* Bloodclaw (Update: Bloodclaw is no more. I agree 100% with the change, which happens to be virtually identical to what I proposed.)

Problem -Damage Bonus. Together with Reckless (see below), Bloodclaws are the most common weapon of choice for characters trying to optimize their damage, and with good reason. Their constant HP cost is annoying, but they more than make up for it. Also, in case they weren't absurd enough, the loose wording allows a player to activate the power and then attack (with the bonus!) with a different weapon.
Solution - Change power from At-Will to Encounter. Change the beginning of the last sentence of the weapon property to "If you hit with this weapon...".
Comment- A harsh change, but far from bad enough to make the weapon unplayable. The +1 version becomes mediocre, and the use of one-handed weapons is far from optimal, though. As a strong encounter power, this version is prone to abuse by stacking activations from several lower level items (since attacks affected by that power are profitable even at the cost of a reduced enhancenment bonus), but I intend to address that general loophole with item powers in a future article.

* Bloodiron (Update: Also errataed, though they fixed an ambiguous wording that suggested a recursive effect rather than weakening the weapon. I'd like to see further changes, but I agree that the implemented change was needed.)
Problem - Critical Bonus. You can't get much more ridiculous than this with critical effects. Vicious Weapons are a good benchmark for this kind of items and, although it is acceptable for an item of higher level to be stronger, the disparity in this case is just too much.
Solution - Change the property to "When you score a critical hit with this weapon, deal the extra critical hit damage to the target again the next time you hit the target before your next turn".
Comment - The chance that the following attack will miss and the extra damage is lost weakens the property as much as the need to attack the target one more time in order to get the full effect. Given the amount of damage involved, critical hits with these weapons tended to be the last hits a target received. Nevertheless, this still beats Vicious.

Problem - Damage Bonus. Coupled with a very rare, but devastating, bonus to hit. This is only partially offset by the fact that it is very difficult to exploit in the first two rounds of combat (though even that might work, in a group with other strikers with much higher initiative bonuses). On the other hand, after that point, you will probably be able to jump from one bloodied enemy to the next.
Solution - Change property to: "After you hit with this weapon, if the target is bloodied, the next time you attack it with this weapon before the end of your next turn you gain a +1 item bonus to the attack roll and an item bonus equal to the enhancenment bonus to the damage roll."
Comment - The bonuses are still great, but it will take some effort to get them. It will take really accurate characters to make the most out of this, since one miss means you start all over again. Having one guaranteed attack without bonus against each target is another balancing factor.

Problem - Save Penalty. Just out of principle, this shouldn't work for the whole duration of an effect.
Solution - In the item property, replace "to saving throws" with "to the first saving throw".

Problem - Miscellaneous. This won't come up often as it is one of the most boring possible strategies, but at paragon tier and beyond, the item allows a defender with a strong enough mark to use total defense every turn to become almost unhittable. Even if you have houserules for the most likely candidates for mark abuse, this is dangerously degenerate.
Solution - Replace the property with the following power:
Power(encounter). Free action. Use only when you take the total defense or second wind action. Add the enhancement bonus of this weapon as an item bonus to all of your defenses until the start of your next turn.
Comment - What we are left with isn't the most exciting of weapons, but is really close to the original one in the most common (and fair) scenarios: a character using Second Wind once per encounter, and staying away from Total Defense.

Problem- Damage Bonus A very specific item, as it only works for a single build of a character class. On the other hand, the benefit that Trickster Rogues get from this is nothing short of amazing, and probably the only thing that keeps it from being mandatory to such characters is the even-more-broken stuff like Bloodclaw&Reckless.
Solution - Replace the property with the following power:
Power (Encounter): Free Action. Use when you hit an enemy with this weapon and deal extra damage from your Sneak Attack class feature. add your Charisma modifier to the damage roll. When you reduce an enemy to 0 hit points, regain the use of this power.
Comment - Unlike other cases in this article, I have added the chance to recover this power because I thought it ended up a bit too weak for a level+4 item. Still, it will rarely trigger more than a couple of times per encounter unless there is an abundance of minions. And minion slaying is far from an ideal use of a rogue's abilities, anyway.

* Mage's Weapon (Update: The Parrying Dagger trick still works, but they fixed a potential abuse with the encounter power.)
Problem - Miscelaneous. Easiest way in the game to get a +1 bonus to AC, for a character not proficient with shields or otherwise dependant on two-handed weapons: Buy (or craft) a +1 Mage's Parrying Dagger. Some also dislike the combination with superior heavy blades, but that is a lot more fair, as it still requires you to have a level-appropiate item.
Solution - Replace the property with "Anyone trained in Arcana applies this weapon's proficiency bonus to attacks as though he was proficient with it."
Comment - The effect is almost the same for characters not exploiting defensive weapons. I changed the requirement because it was pointless to have a condition that is met by every single player character in the game - needing arcana matches the weapon's flavor and restricts its use to, you know, mages.

Problem - Critical Bonus. Although I like that such an effect exists as an alternative to the hard to get Weapon Mastery epic feats, it is so strong that having it at anything but the highest enchantment level would make it hard to justify taking most other weapons at paragon (once we have dealt with the greatest offenders in this article, at least).
Solution - Change item levels to 15/20/25/30.

Problem - Damage Bonus. As straightforward as it gets, the radiant weapon will always grant its contant bonus unless you happen to find one of the very few monsters that resist radiant damage in the game. For the rest of damage-boosting weapons I have chosen to reduce frequency of use, but in this case, I feel it's appropiate to leave it as a constant benefit (after adjusting the bonus, of course) due to the fact that it's a maximum level enchantment, and its original intent is clear enough. Also, there is the very significant disadvantage of not stacking with other "Item" bonuses to damage (some of which, by the way, will see a similar adjustment in subsequent articles).
Solution - Replace the property with "When this weapon is used to deal radiant damage, add a +2 item bonus to its damage rolls". Add "Level 25 and 30: +3 item bonus".

* Reckless (Update: Fixed, too.)
Problem -Damage Bonus.The second member of the Reckless & Bloodclaw unholy duo, this weapon has a lot in common with its sister. A slightly less brutal boost is compensated by a relatively inexpensive activation, particularly in the optimal scenario of multiple attacks per round, since the AC penalty doesn't stack.
Solution - Replace the power with:
"Power (Encounter): Free Action. Use this power before making a melee attack with this weapon against an adjacent target. You gain a power bonus to that attack’s damage roll equal to twice this weapon’s enhancement bonus. You take a –2 penalty to AC until the end of your next turn. If you are hit while this penalty is active, regain the use of this power."
Comment - The power recovery clause isn't necessary from a balance point of view, as the enchantment should be good enough without it, but I found it fun enough to risk adding it.

Problem - Critical Bonus. Like Bloodiron before, this enchantment pushes too far the benefit for scoring a critical hit.
Solution - Remove the "1d6 damage per plus" line from the Critical line.
Comment - Taking away the extra critical dice, it's not immediately obvious if just having an extra attack is stronger or weaker than other critical triggers. The answer depends heavily on the degree of optimization of each character. It's still a cool effect with interesting interactions, though.

Problem - Damage Bonus. Other enchantments listed here provide higher damage boosts, or do so unconditionally, but this is still a respectable, untyped increase, and the Combat Advantage condition is very easy to meet through flanking. Though it isn't the most aberrant of weapons, it still crosses the line for me.
Solution - Change the property to "When attacking with combat advantage, if you are the only creature adjacent to your target, add extra damage equal to this weapon's enhancenment bonus to the damage roll."
Comment - Requiring you, and only you to be adjacent to the target is the subtle way of preventing this weapon to work while flanking. There are plenty of other ways of gaining combat advantage (most of them involving conditions on the target), but it's not exactly a trick that can be pulled at-will. I have left the bonus untyped because an Item bonus would make it a bit too weak for my taste, and there is no way to justify a Power bonus.

Problem - Damage Bonus. It only works in dedicated charger builds, but it's quite efficient if your character is constantly charging.
Solution - Change property to: "after you hit with a charge attack, your next melee attack against that target before the end of your next turn deals +1d6 thunder damage. Level 23 or 28: +2d6 thunder damage.".
Comment - Though it is possible for a character to make charge attacks almost every turn, doing so without switching targets is much more complicated. As a consequence, using this weapon as a sustained source of single target damage should require a lot of effort. Characters who charge frequently should still be able to trigger this at least a couple of times per encounter, making this a tempting enchantment. Finally, the chosen mechanic was inspired by the Echoes of Thunder concept, which is a theme I like for the damage type.

Problem - Damage Bonus. Like Thundergod above, this shines for dedicated chargers, although the bonus in this one is stronger at lower levels, and a bit worse at higher ones. In this case, there is the added benefit of a decent daily power.
Solution - Add "if the target has maximum hit points" at the end of the property line.
Comment - Limited to once per target, difficult to maximize damage while focusing fire. The kind of play encouraged by the new ruling - being the first to charge to battle, moving from one foe to another - goes well with my concept of 'vanguard'.

Problem - Save Penalty. Just out of principle, this shouldn't work for the whole duration of an effect.
Solution - In the item property, replace "to saving throws" with "to the first saving throw".
Read More......

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Forbidden treasures: Broken magic items in Player's Handbook

Update: The Great November Errata fixed one item in my blacklist, the Rod of Reaving. I'm glad, as it is probably the one that needed it the most. Now, if only they took a look at that helm...

Choosing magic items is the part I enjoy the least of building and leveling a character (or, as a DM, of planning encounters). There's just too many items, and I find most of them either too weak or uninteresting. This still leaves (after a bit of tedious filtering) a good amount of reasonable choices, but the presence of overpowered stuff renders all but a few of these obsolete. In order to improve the situation, I have started to compile a list of broken items, along with rule patches that bring them closer to my idea of balance.

The criteria I'm using to clasify items as overpowered are the following:
  • Static modifiers, when present, should't affect the primary game statistics. Anything granting a flat, non-enhancenment bonus to defenses (and AC in particular), hit, or damage is suspect. Conditional modifiers can be fair game, as long as the conditions are difficult enough to meet - if something can reliably work almost every turn, it should be subject to the same rules as continuous bonuses.
  • Strong daily powers are accepted, and even encouraged. In fact, it's hard to find examples of a daily power making an item too strong. The same can't be said about encounter or at-will powers - these tend to be easy to abuse.
Here's the list of offenders for the first Player's Handbook. I actually intended to include stuff from Player's Handbook 2, too, but I couldn't find anything that screamed broken to me. This is something remarkable, even considering the relatively few items in that book.

* Rod of reaving (Update: This item has been errataed. It's ability now only works on non-minions, which while not too elegant, is a perfectly serviceable solution)
This rod does horrible, horrible things to minions. Of course, in my experience, minions already have a hard time surviving past the first two round of any encounter, but this item's property allows you to kill one each turn, without any kind of attack roll, at the mere cost of a minor action. It could also be combined with various other Warlock feats and items, to curse several enemies in a given turn, annihilating armies of minions at once, though that is likely overkill.

Fix: Add this at the end of the item's Property: "this damage can't reduce an enemy to 0 hit points".

Comments: It was a pity that an interesting mechanic for damage dealing got overshadowed by it's application for minion slaughter. With the minion interaction gone, we are left with a magic item capable of dealing a remarkable amount of extra damage over the course of an encounter, but spread in such a way that it is not too troublesome.

The boots aren't so much broken as too good for their level. They feature an effect (ignoring the worst part of being knocked prone, which is losing a move action) that I would find competitive for a paragon, or maybe even an epic magic item for the same slot. I usually don't bother with correcting a magic item's level, but these boots are tied for the lowest level for magical footwear in the game, which is a bit too much for me.

Fix: Change power from at-will to Encounter. Add a Level 12 version with "this power becomes an at-will power".

If your character is melee oriented and capable of charging (having Str as a primary ability, or Melee Training), this item is too good to pass. The damage bonus is huge, and it's not that difficult to make a charge every other turn, so it can come up quite often. Worn by a character without a specific dedication to charge attacks, this will more often than not make charges more effective than at-will powers, changing the default strategy to 'charge whenever possible', and resulting in a slight damage increase overall. However, it really shines with specialized chargers, such as Barbarians or some Druid builds - to the point of brokenness.

Fix: Remove property, add the following power.
Power (Encounter): Free action. Use this power when you hit with a charge attack. The attack deals an extra 1d6 damage.
Level 16: 2d6 extra damage.
Level 26: 3d6 extra damage.
Read More......

Friday, November 6, 2009

Inglourious basterd sword rogues

Today in DDI we have another marvelous article by Mike Mearls, who redefined the Wizard class only two days ago. It's devoted to the Rogue, and only three pages long, but the density of good options is such that its impact on the class is almost comparable to that of Martial Power.

It's not so much power creep as the complete eradication of anything resembling filler material - almost every power and feat presented here is playable, and some are serious contenders as the best ones in their slots. This has a lot of merit, as I think rogues are one of the most difficult classes to design encounter powers for, and the only way to make such attacks shine seemed to be turning them into minor or immediate actions. Every attack in this article costs a standard action, and still they manage to be awesome.

The article is themed around Duelist Rogues, who are focused in melee and like isolating enemies and fighting them without support, something that was previously almost impossible to pull off with the class. Crucially, there are now feats and powers that allow Sneak Attacking in melee without flanking. A new at-will called Duelist's Flurry slides and deals this damage at the cost of losing the weapon damage die, making it the perfect backup power. Melee rogues will still want to flank (attacking with other at-wills) in order to deal as much damage as possible, but having this as an option is a good safeguard for the times it isn't possible to do so. The power will also see ocasional use even with combat advantage, just because of the slide. The other Sneak Attack enabler is a feat called Flash of the Blade, which works only with rapiers and allows using the class feature if both you and the target have nobody else adjacent.

It's a good thing that rapiers got an important boost, as they are getting fierce competitors in the high-damage rogue weapon department. In what is likely the most significant contribution in this article, the new feat Versatile Duelist allows all (one handed) heavy blades to be used with both rogue powers and Sneak Attack, and grants proficiency with the military ones to boot. This means that a rogue can now use a Longsword as easily as a Rapier (at the cost of a feat), and more importantly that Bastard Swords (and their sweet d10 damage) also become an option, even if they cost a whooping two feats.

As for the power selection, most are variations on two main mechanics. The first one is granting additional movement (shifting a good deal of squares) and significant bonuses to defenses when you attack, helping the squishy rogues to actually survive when isolating their prey. The other one puts the rogue in a sort of temporary defensive stance for a turn, enabling counterattacks against enemies targeting the rogue, or just passing by. A power that stands out is the Level 5 daily Duelist's Demand which, if it works, makes an opponent incapable of escaping from you and granting you combat advantage for the rest of the encounter! This is probably the best 'duel' style power I have seen to date.

A must read for anyone remotely related to a Rogue.

Read More......

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

RIP: Scorching Burst

(Update: As of March, 2010, Winged Horde has received errata that considerably reduces the power's damage. As a consequence of this, Scorching Burst becomes a legitimate option again, as the Wizard power of choice for area damage. Rise from your ashes, scorching burst!)

It seems it was only yesterday when I first opened my 4E Player's Handbook and read the Wizard class. I almost immediately fell in love with Scorching Burst, the straightforward, reliable area attack that could be used turn after turn. For me, this was what set apart the controller role (which at the time consisted exclusively of Wizards) from other classes. Later, I would learn of the subtle ways of the controller, and find that damaging a 3x3 area is far from the most powerful thing you could do with one. But I still stood by Scorching Burst, which brought fun for me, and pain for my enemies.

More rule books came, crowding the controller role, and the new powers put it clear that the original burst attack was no longer deemed good enough. Other classes became capable of creating bursts that were as damaging, but also imposed severe penalties on the targets. Even non-controllers were given better area attacks. Finally, some particularly strong prayers had the power of hurting hordes of foes that weren't confined in small spaces, without risk of hurting the attacker's allies. And yet, Scorching Burst endured, as Wizards had no better option for pure damage at range.

There was a brief glimmer of hope, found in tomes of Arcane Power, when Wizards discovered the way to Enlarge their bursts, and to combine them with Ice magic for lethal effects. I thought the old spell might, after all, find its place of power among controllers. But it was not to last.

The latest Class Acts article for Wizards in DDI (which, by the way, is easily among the best material I have read so far in the magazines, so you should definitely check it out) has signed the death sentence of Scorching Burst, with a new Wizard at-will (called Winged Horde) that improves the basic burst 1 attack in two very significant ways: it prevents targets from taking opportunity actions, and it no longer hurts friendly targets in the area. The new spell deals Psychic damage instead of Fire, but that won't stop most arcane users from writing it in their tomes.

Farewell, Scorching Burst. You were always my favourite Square Fireball. Somehow, I will miss your friendly fire.

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Martial Power 2: Two-Handed Rangers and Ranged Warlords?

In today's Ampersand article in DDI, we are shown a new mechanic from Martial Power 2, called Combat Styles, which grants bonuses with specific weapons to certain powers, both at-will and encounter. The really interesting part, though, is how the previewed styles strongly suggest what two of the new builds in the book will be.

The ranged Warlord build, hinted by a combat style called Adamant Arrow, is confirmed to be capable of using longbows, though it is too early to know if there will also be support for thrown weapons, and whether the primary ability will still be Strength, or something different like Dexterity. What is certain is that a new at-will called Paint the Bull's Eye will consist on a ranged weapon attack.

The idea that there will be a two-handed weapon Ranger, on the other hand, comes from a style called Black Hood Student, which was already present in an earlier playtest article. Among other changes from that version, the ranger at-will previously (and wrongly) supposed to be used with two-handed axes was Careful Strike though, like most ranger melee powers, it required dual wielding. On the latest preview, however, they mention a new power, called Marauder's Rush. I'd bet that that one works properly with Greataxes, and that it is not the only one in the book to do so.
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