Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 3: Feats

Dominic Matte

The paladin's powers are cool and all, but perhaps surprisingly, the feats are where you can make your zombie hunter really shine. That's because they'll give you specific bonuses and abilities against undead, or augment your best undead-killing powers, rather than simply dealing a chunk of radiant damage.

First off, the Radiant Touch feat from Dragon 371 gives you a whole new encounter attack. You can spend a use of your Lay On Hands to deal radiant damage to an undead creature equal to your surge value, which should be pretty respectable as a big tough paladin. Intriguingly, you can indirectly increase the damage of this power by increasing your hit point total or surge value, which makes feats like Toughness look even better than usual. Being a dragonborn also gives this feat a little boost.

On a very important and related note, remember how the paladin can't turn undead or blast them like the cleric, invoker, and avenger can? Well, the feat Versatile Channeler allows you to select one Channel Divinity power from another class, meaning you now have access to Abjure, Turn, and Rebuke Undead. I'd recommend Rebuke, at least in the heroic tier - the blast 5 is more versatile than a burst 2, giving you more control over which enemies to target. It also dazes instead of immobilizing, which means the enemies have to choose to move OR attack. But once you hit paragon you'll probably want to retrain into Turn Undead, since its burst increases to 5. The push + immobilize will likely prevent melee undead from hitting your allies at all for a turn.
However, do remember that all of these powers use Wisdom as their attack stat. Since Wis is a secondary stat for you, you'll be less likely to hit. On the other hand, you still do half damage on a miss, and it's an attack power you didn't have before, so it might be worth it anyway.

An absolutely vital feat, which I recommend right from level 1 for aspiring undead slayers (with a 15 Cha), is Cleansing Challenge (Dragon 371). It allows you to deal 2 points of radiant damage (more in later tiers) to the target of your divine challenge if it's an undead creature. Sounds simple enough, but there are two absolutely massive unlisted benefits here. First is that undead are vulnerable to radiant damage, so it isn't just 2 points of damage - it's 7 or 12. Second, dealing damage as soon as you mark might as well read "spend a minor action to kill one zombie minion" - you'll become a (zombie) minion-killing machine. And if you took Ardent Strike, you can still mark another enemy on the same turn. Whoah.

There's one heritage feat which should also be under serious consideration right from level 1, and a second which is thematically appropriate but not quite as useful to the aspiring zombie hunter.
The first is Undead Hunter, which, well... Duh. It increases your surge value by 1, which will boost your Radiant Touch and Devoted Paladin feats. It also gives Holy Strike a damage boost, applying both your Wis and Cha modifier to damage. 
The second is Zombie Veteran. It gives you a +2 bonus to escape grabs, and gives Valiant Strike a +1 damage bonus for each undead adjacent to you. This is an at-will that I didn't list above which gives you a +1 bonus to the attack roll for each enemy adjacent to you. It's a solid choice, and a must-have if you're playing a human with a bonus at-will, but it takes a feat to make it useful against undead specifically. Plus, zombies aren't always terribly grabby. This feat is the lesser choice of the two, but worth taking if you're a human with the 3 recommended at-wills.

Other feats to consider:
  • Feats that boost the power of your divine challenge: Bitter Challenge which slows, and especially Mighty Challenge which boosts damage by your Str mod. Keep in mind that these feats only apply to your actual divine challenge, not your divine sanction. Also remember that they only apply if the enemy triggers the damage, meaning attacking an ally who's not you. Consider choosing feats that don't rely on monsters attacking your friends. 
  • Commanding Vow allows you to slide the enemy to which you apply your Divine Sanction.
  • Rose King's Balm, which gives you a flat +2 Heal and a +2 bonus to saving throws (or +5 if you move more than 2 squares) on the turn you use your Holy Strike at-will power as long as you're wielding a longsword.
  • Any feat that gives you a bonus when you spend a healing surge. These won't help you kill things, but they'll come up very frequently, since you "spend a healing surge" whenever you use your second wind, Lay On Hands, and even Radiant Touch. These should be used to fill feat slots when you've exhausted your tier's paladin feats that boost zombie damage.
  • Feats that improve Channel Divinity. By default you don't have any CD powers that target undead, but they're useful in every fight. And of course if you pick up Versatile Channeler, these feats will apply when you Turn or Rebuke undead.
If you're playing a dragonborn, there are a couple of feats specially made for divine dragonborn,  and paladins specifically: 
  • Radiant Breath adds radiant damage to your Dragon Breath.
  • Draconic Challenge places divine sanction on enemies you hit with Dragon Breath.
  • Draconic Majesty applies a -2 penalty to the defenses of all enemies within 5 squares when you use Channel Divinity.
  • Io's Challenge allows you to add your Con modifier to divine challenge damage while you're bloodied.
 I believe that about does it for feats. Part 4 will wrap things up with a key item and considerations for paragon and epic tiers.

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