Friday, 11 May 2012

The Ultimate Zombie Hunter Part 5: Tactics & Wrap-Up

Dominic Matte
You've built your ultimate badass paladin who can totally kick the crap out of zombies. Or maybe you haven't and you're looking for a completed example. How should this paladin actually behave in combat, given the mix of powers and feats available to you? Read on for some tips, as well as some sample characters to show you what I'm talking about.

I'll start with a low-level dragonborn paladin, Vothrik Deadbane.
For your stats, go with 16 Str, 14 Con, 11 Dex, 8 Int, 14 Wis, 12 Cha. Your racial bonuses to Str and Cha will increase those to 18 and 14 respectively. Your stats are a little spread out, but there are reasons for that. You want to take advantage of the dragonborn bonus to your surge value, so a +2 Con modifier will work fine. Don't bother putting any more points into that stat later on. Dex and Int are pretty unnecessary to this build and will only contribute to your Reflex defense. I put one point into Dex so that you'll gain a one-point boost to your Reflex when you hit paragon tier. Wisdom and Charisma will both be important secondary stats throughout your career, so you should invest in them about equally. When you level up, always increase Str since it's your primary attack stat, and alternate between increasing Wis and Cha.

In terms of powers, you've got Ardent Strike and Holy Strike, which as previously discussed work very well together. For your first encounter power, select Radiant Smite - Guardian Light is a good option too, but it's more defensive, which isn't really what you're going for here. For your first daily, Majestic Halo looks good, but it's a Cha attack, which is 2 points lower than your Str. Instead take Blood of the Mighty, which deals a huge 4[W] damage at the cost of 5HP. It's not radiant, but it's reliable and a very powerful attack for a defender.

For the first feat, despite the lovely options available for dragonborn paladins, I started with Zombie Hunter. It's both thematically appropriate and also gives you another +1 to your surge value, boosting it to 10 - it's now a third of your first-level HP instead of a quarter, and if you later select Radiant Touch, it'll be dealing a very respectable amount of damage considering that it's a feat power.

I rolled Posse's stats originally, and they're far higher than would normally be allowed by the point buy method, so I've modified them to fit the standard point buy for this example. Posse's base stats are 17 Str, 10 Con, 8 Dex, 10 Int, 14 Wis, 14 Cha, with his racial bonus in Str. Since Posse is a human and not a dragonborn, he doesn't gain as big a benefit from a high Con, so I left that at 10. Otherwise his stat spread is very similar to Vothrik's above. At level 4 he increases Str and Cha, and at level 8 it's Str and Wis. He gains +1 to all stats at level 11.

Posse McToes
As a human, Posse gets a bonus at-will power in addition to Ardent Strike and Holy Strike, which is Valiant Strike. It'll help him score a hit when surrounded. A couple of Posse's powers were discussed in the powers article, so I won't explain them again here.

Posse is a little more focused on protecting his allies from harm than some zombie killers (due to the loss of his parents as a child), so his level 1 daily is Paladin's Judgment, which lets an ally spend a surge. 
At level 3, without a strong radiant power to select, Posse went with Invigorating smite to heal himself and allies.
At level 5, Martyr's Retribution is a powerful radiant attack, but requires you to spend a surge. Careful about using this one.
Wrath of the Gods is a good offensive utility that gives you and your allies a damage bonus, useful for an offensive paladin.
The level 7 encounter power Crescent Moon is interesting as a ranged radiant option, allowing you to strike from 10 squares away if wielding a heavy blade.
Deathguide's Stance is a cool healing option that rewards you for destroying your enemies, which is an obvious choice for a team-oriented yet still offensive paladin.

Since Posse doesn't have the Con prerequisite for the Zombie Hunter feat, he'll skip it. Instead he's starting with Zombie Veteran, which will boost his Valiant Strike - useful against undead that aren't vulnerable to radiant. For his bonus feat he selects Heavy Blade Expertise to ensure he'll hit those pesky zombies.
Next Posse picks up Versatile Channeler to gain the invoker's Rebuke Undead power, retraining to Turn Undead when he hits paragon for the increased burst size.
At level 4, now that he's increased his Cha modifier, Posse picks up Cleansing Challenge to destroy a minion with a minor action.
Later on he goes for Commanding Vow, Radiant Touch, Mighty Challenge, and Persistent Challenge as previously discussed.

To wrap things up, Posse is wielding a Sunblade longsword, allowing him to deal radiant damage with non-radiant powers. His paragon path is Slayer of the Dead, the only real option for zombie hunters.

These builds don't function much differently from a standard paladin, so much of the time you'll be working as a standard defender with a slightly more offensive bent. This means you don't sacrifice your versatility like you do with some other specialized builds - it focuses on increasing the power of a few specific things that most paladins should be doing anyways. But there are a few tactical options you'll want to keep in mind.

In combat against undead, you'll want to charge right in there and start carving things up. Ardent Strike can be used as part of a charge, so you can open with that to gain a small attack bonus. When you do, if possible, remember to throw down a Divine Challenge on a second adjacent enemy.

If you have Cleansing Challenge, try marking whichever enemy appears to be the weakest, since if it's a minion it'll die outright. This will let you know which enemies you can easily take out with your augmented Divine Challenge. On a related note, if you have Turn or Rebuke Undead through Versatile Channeler, use that as soon as you have the option to attack multiple undead. It's another good way to find out which enemies are minions, since it deals a small amount of damage to multiple enemies. Remember that minions don't take damage from a miss, so a missed enemy that stays up could still be a minion.

If you're in a fight with undead, you might as well use Bless Weapon as early as possible. Since it's most powerful against zombies, there's really no point in saving it for a later combat unless you know for sure a tougher one (with zombies) is coming up in the same day.

The utility powers I've selected are all dailies that last for the duration of the encounter, which can actually lead to some frustrating choices. You want to use them early in a fight to gain the most benefit, but you don't want to blow them all in one fight and have nothing for later. Try to anticipate how many combats you'll have in a day and use your powers accordingly. If you're just starting a dungeon crawl, you can safely assume you'll be facing more than one fight today, so aim for one daily utility per encounter. If you're too low a level to have many utilities, consider using your utilities early and saving daily attacks for later. If you don't anticipate fighting many combats in one day, you might as well  use a bunch of utilities at once for maximum benefit.

Always remember to use your Divine Challenge and Divine Sanction, especially if you've invested feats into improving them. Although do keep in mind that if you're very low on hit points, you may want to forego marking until you get healed and can actually take the hits, especially if the rest of the party is doing OK. Fortunately, you can do this yourself with Lay On Hands.

And finally, this has nothing to do with your stats, but to add some fun and flavour to your character and combats, consider coming up with a few lines to shout whenever you're fighting zombies. 

So by now you should have your very own zombie-killing paladin and a good idea of how to play it, and where you'll want to end up at higher levels. Huzzah!

If there's anything you think I've missed, or if you've played a different build or class to fight zombies, let me know about it in the comments!

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