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Topics - Firebrand

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Warfare AE / Flurry of Steel and Fire - The Berserker
« on: 30 March 2018, 21:20:50 »
Alright, I'm back with yet one more of these threads.

An item I found relatively recently has once again ignited my interest in the Berserker.

I've said a few things about what I imagined would be interesting about it in the other topic (see here: - hopefully I did the linking right), but I'll reiterate quickly (maybe in a little more organized form.

- Astounding number of melee procs, not to mention that, as far as I could see with my Stonespeaker, the individual hits from Reckless Offense's multi-attack can themselves trigger Runeword: Burn (not sure about the dual-wielding ones, though - will have to test).
- War Wind and Thunder Strike both provide useful area attacks that help close the distance to ranged attackers as well.
- Ludicrous amounts of offensive ability from Weapon Training and Runeword: Feather.
- Battle Standard, Guardian Stones, Ancestral Horn... Now that sounds like something to try (later).
- Battle Rage and Sacred Rage (not that there's so much synergy between them in particular, just so much rage).

The thing that put me off from the Berserker for a long time was having to decide between going with strength and Onslaught or intelligence and Rune Weapon. While the intelligence route was tempting due to being more novel and unconventional, as well as good for having a built-in attack damage converted to health, it has its drawbacks - Hew doesn't do much on its own, the enormous offensive ability doesn't help much as elemental damage doesn't crit, Crushing Blow again doesn't do much (I don't know how powerful Crushing Blow is, anyway, but it sure is fun early in the game), Triumph is a bit less powerful... So overall, strength seemed the better choice anyway, but Berserker's Mantle convinced me completely.

Rather conveniently, I had a Warrior in the middle of Normal Egypt, developed towards strength (obviously) but without a secondary mastery (as I started that character before Ragnarök and didn't know what to choose). So... Berserking time!

Past me apparently decided that Onslaught and the Dual Wield tree were the most important to max out first, so I decided to continue that (went into Rune anyway, to get the shiny new Berserker title as well as Rune of Life - mainly for the movement speed, but the percentile increase to Strength is also good - Sacred Rage, and Thunder Strike). I have a point each in most Warfare skills, though, except for the horns (I should invest in them soon, though).

War Wind and Thunder Strike on the same character is evil. Use War Wind to close the distance in a blink of the eye, attack everyone around, and then use Thunder Strike to attack everyone around again. Playing on the highest speed option (I'm impatient) is really satisfying as pretty much every hit I land now is a critical; being surrounded pretty much means that yellow numbers float up from basically every enemy in melee range. Good stuff.

However, the reason why I started this thread is a little different.

I'm in Act III now, and usually when I enter a new act, I try a few items from my vault that look interesting. Weapons are usually less so in Normal, as Quicksilver Bludgeon stands out so much from the rest that I generally tend to end up using it far into Act IV and more. Not this time, however.

As I looked around, I had a pair of a Yin and a Yang, neatly next to each other. At the first glance, I never thought they'd be more than a pair of gimmick weapons, probably for Spellbreakers, but... sure, why not. (I really like how they're done, thematically, anyway.) Especially since I had Imperial Bracers and Imperial Greaves lying about, too.

I underestimated them. DPS increased by nearly two hundred compared to the Quicksilver Bludgeon + Marduk's Rage setup I'd been using before, and unless I'm fighting undead or constructs, the health bar doesn't really go below full (which renders Sacred Rage a little useless right now). I wanted to say that while I don't have critical hits for about 1000 damage anymore like I did with Quicksilver Bludgeon, around the end of today's session I had a few 1100-1200 crits (I assume Battle Rage and Crushing Blow did that).

Fun times. If you're like me and overlooked Yin and Yang, give them a try!

I'll keep playing with the Berserker, probably... Or one of my other characters. Either.

Hunting AE / Shuriken Storm
« on: 17 March 2018, 00:22:20 »
Of course I'm not quite there yet.

First of all, thanks to @botebote77 for the very idea that spurred me on this journey. For details, see the discussion here:

Long story short, I was pretty awestruck when I saw Jagged Silk, but not in my most far-fetched dreams did I think that separate instances of Volley would stack. Botebote suggested that they would, and quick testing suggests that they indeed do - so it's time to do something crazy.

I've only started recently, and wouldn't have started a thread just yet, but things happened - lots of them, in fact - and decided to do so anyway.

I started out with Rune (was pretty sure I'd want Rune, but wanted some more time to decide whether to go with Hunting or Rogue). Eventually went for Hunting to become a Dragon Hunter. Unlike any other character I've had so far, I've been juggling masteries back and forth; instead of focusing on maxing one of them, getting all the skills I was interested in, and then focusing on the other, I started out with Rune, then went for Hunting until I got Marksmanship, then back to Rune for Reckless Offense, and now I'm maxing Hunting to get Volley. After that... We'll see.

I'm already at two deaths. First is probably the earliest and most shameful death I've had - the first time the undead show up (in the graveyard next to the guy who wants to deliver potions to Tegea), I got caught off-guard by a few Plague Birds just as I'd run out of Health Potions. Embarrassing, but oh well. Second was Lysia Spellbreaker, who's always an annoyance, but this was the first time she was a lethal one.

The main reason why I started this thread so early is the selection of loot I got. I found a Copper Hunting Hatchet around level 2, was pretty happy about it, eager to use (it was not magical, but its base damage was by far higher than anything else available at its level). Good, then just after killing the first Satyr Brute a chest dropped Hand of Lycurgus. I thought wow, I was set for a long time - it is actually really good. Then not long after...

A Hoi Polloi dropped from a Sepulcher, I think. Same DPS as Lycurgus, but it also comes with Volley... Awesome. I found two Small Torches later. The in-game DPS meter gives a higher figure for them, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't calculate with Volley. I'm still dual-wielding them in the secondary slot against undead, who aren't quite as susceptible to pierce damage (I use Rune Weapon with them, too, for fun). It's a bit of a shame that Small Torches look and sound like knives and don't even have fire on them. If the burn damage procs, however, they one-shot any non-boss undead. (Also, got my Will of Horus out of the stash to dual-wield along with Hoi Polloi.)

Another reason why I went with starting the thread is skills. It occurs to me that I wouldn't want or need too many skills from either mastery. Marksmanship is fine, but Rune Weapon might work better in the end, as Puncture Shot Arrows and Scatter Shot Arrows don't seem to work with thrown weapons (I haven't tried, entirely based on their descriptions). Wood Lore is something I always go for with Hunting, but considering that Jagged Silk gives a huge bonus to attack speed and dual-wielding attack speed with thrown weapons is capped at 141%, it doesn't seem very useful at all - maybe for the defensive ability when I'm out of skills to put points into. Which leaves me with Art of the Hunt, Study Prey, Volley, and Herbal Remedy, as well as Marksmanship; Runeword: Burn, Reckless Offense, and potentially Rune Weapon in Rune. Probably Guardian Stones as well. Energy Armor, useful as it is, seems out of the question.

General Discussion / Favorite and least favorite acts
« on: 19 January 2018, 18:40:46 »
So now that's Ragnarök is out, there are five acts to choose from! Do you have favorites? Are there ones you just don't like? Go ahead and share!

To lead by example, I'll do. I'm in a bit of trouble with favorite, though. Whenever I leave Egypt with a character on legendary (it hasn't happened very often, mind you, but I've had a few characters there), I always feel a bit disappointed that I'm not going back there (at least with that character) again. I really like the atmosphere that was built up for Act II, and the fact that it's most likely the shortest of the five by a long shot doesn't really help, either. On the other hand, Act V is hard to contest with. Celtic and Nordic themes are both great, and the deep forests and snowy wastelands are both very evocative. The soundtrack is superb, and there's some unique feel to the Dvergr ruins, too.

My least favorite is much less of a question, I think it's always been Act IV. Don't get me wrong, the atmosphere is pretty greatly done, usually (I particularly like the eerie Tower of Judgement), but something about the whole act just makes me want to get out of there as quickly as it's possible. I could never really explain why that is, but somehow the whole act has a rather oppressive feel, I think.

On that note, I'm not a huge fan of the start of Act III, either, but by the end it really grows on me. I'm not fond of the random prehistoric monsters, either; I guess I think that with its rich mythology and history, China really would've deserved an act on its own, and before that Babylon, Persia and the Silk Road could've been rolled into another. Thinking about it, I'd really have liked to see how that'd have turned out!

General Discussion / Am I unlucky, or are unique drops weird?
« on: 17 January 2018, 15:27:05 »
It took me a while to consider creating this thread, but by now I'm nearly convinced that either I have some really peculiar luck, or something's not right with the game's loot system.

It goes way back, in fact. Even when I first started the game, a good four-five years ago I think, I noticed that in Normal sets the torso armor tends to drop much less than the others (or not at all). Even now it still seems to be the case; I have the full Labyrinthine, Theban and Obsidian sets - all three are only missing the torso armor, while having multiple copies of the bracers and the greaves especially.

I've spent more than an entire character level now farming Aktaios on legendary (there are some things I'd really like for other characters, including a few things that only drop in legendary Egypt). I have three Alexander's Bracers; no other pieces of Alexander's set have ever dropped.

I have over ten Gorgon's Edges now from random drops like Bone Piles and Sepulchers. It's like the game really likes giving me that item for some reason. In Act V epic and Act I legendary, it was the Dwarfbiter I found everywhere similarly, I have six or seven pieces of that, too. Interesting, both are poison-focused.

According to the database, both epic Typhon and legendary Aktaios have the same chances to drop Eye of Flame and Polaris. I have seven of the former and none of the latter, and all Eyes of Flame I have have dropped from either of them.

I know that probability can produce some interesting things, but I can't help but think that the statistical odds of this kind of thing happening are nowhere near significant.

Runemaster AE / Runic Elemental Shotgun
« on: 15 January 2018, 17:21:12 »
I'll start with some brief history.

I got Ragnarök a good while ago, and needless to say, I was quite excited about the new mastery, so I started a character to try it right away. Looking at its skills, I was thinking what I'd combine it with and what kind of playstyle I'd go for. Between Runeword: Feather and Transmutation, I decided that it was time to finally try an actual spellsword-type character; swinging a weapon and casting spells at the same time.

To go with the whole elemental damage theme, the secondary mastery was going to be Earth or Storm. If you remember me from the old forums (my username was a bit different, though), you'll know Earth probably qualifies as my favorite mastery, so I decided to go with it. Thus the Stonespeaker was born. (Besides, bias aside, Earth seems to provide more support for melee than Storm, overall.)

Eventually, time proved me wrong. I died embarrassingly often (well, part of the reason might be that I've returned to the game from a long break, and had to get used to things again). The Stonespeaker doesn't seem to be able to stand against most enemies in the game toe-to-toe. Casting is good, but if I rely on it only, it's basically a caster build that has a melee weapon equipped for a change. Runic Weapon doesn't work with a staff, and bows need way too much dexterity. On the other hand...

So I decided to go with thrown weapons. They seemed interesting, anyway; their range might be shorter than bows, but they fire faster, and can be used with a shield. So that looked useful. The limited range can be helped in a number of ways, so that was no problem, and their dexterity requirements are generally much more friendly than those of bows. So there we go!

You might wonder about the title of the thread. Sometime around normal Act V I decided to try one thing. Namely, I was curious about Reckless Offense. Does it allow me to dual-wield weapons on itself? Can I dual-wield thrown weapons? To investigate, I put a point into it, expecting to undo that move with a mystic pretty soon. But I didn't. The chief reason for that is Thunder Strike. Now Thunder Strike shoots five projectiles, as its description says. However, if you're dual-wielding thrown weapons, it will net you five projectiles for each weapon you're holding! That's a lot of daggers or axes at the same time. And Reckless Offense itself pays off as well, I found.

So it began. Admittedly I got really lucky with drops. I got a Fenrir's Bite randomly in Act V normal, and then a Munnin's Grasp after farming Surtr a little. Those I didn't even carry for long, as I had two Neith's Wills drop in Act I epic, which lasted way until Act II legendary, which is when, during my first farming run of Aktaios, a Bone Pile dropped... Chakram of the Sun.

Wow. That thing is everything I was looking for. Does base fire damage, increases fire damage, burn damage, attack speed, decreases recharge... Do I need to list it? Fortunately I was wearing a Lithe Coil of the Gryphon (naturally enchanted with epic Primal Magma) I fortuitiously found sometime in epic that let me use a lot of thrown weapons before my dexterity caught up. It bumped my DPS up by a little more than 2000 on its own.

More runs than I dare to admit and around 7-8 Gorgon's Edges later (don't take it the wrong way, that looks like a frightening weapon, just not for my Stonespeaker - still, having them drop from pretty much everywhere is a little excessive), I found a second Chakram of the Sun (and soon after a third). Equipping two of them also gave a total damage bonus of +40%; I assume that's the set bonus I get for some reason for wielding two of those instead of one Chakram of the Moon. Not that I mind; I don't have a Chakram of the Moon yet, and other than the +10% intelligence instead of strength I see no benefit to it over Chakram of the Sun anyway. Plus cold damage and +2 skills to Dream don't synergize well, I believe, at least not nearly as well as fire damage bonuses and +2 skills to Earth.

I find that even before finding those, the class was capable of incredible damage output (and after some farming, my resistances are mostly in the positive even on legendary, which is new). Running up close to bosses and using Thunder Strike on them (after warming up with a few Runic Weapon shots) regularly took off about half their health just like that. And that was before I discovered that Seal of Fate reduces resistances!

The character's far from optimized, sadly I put a bit too many points into strength when I underestimated Runeword: Feather, and sadly there's no way to undo that. I needed about 385 dexterity eventually (for Chakram of the Sun), so quite a few had to go into that; intelligence therefore isn't sky-high, it could be a little better, but overall still pretty good (I think I've just broken 700).

So now that I'm done this part, here are some gameplay tricks for those who would be interested. Keep in mind that while throwing weapons have insane DPS, I still wanted to be a caster to some degree (and I found the two complement each other), so it's not a pure throwing build.

First of all, items: two Chakrams of the Sun, Crown of Dockma'Ar, Falcon Cape, Lithe Coil of the Gryphon with epic Primal Magma (planned to switch it to another something of the Gryphon with a better prefix, as I don't need the Lithe anymore), Völva's Foot Leather, Seal of Hephaestus, Star Stone (good casting speed bonus), Eye of Flame (planned to switch it out for Polaris), Dragontongue (planned to switch it out for Eye of Ra).

Not much to say of skills. The Runic Weapon line is maxed, with the exception of Energy Drain which is almost. Earth Enchantment line is maxed with the exception of Stone Skin. Volcanic Orb line and Eruption are maxed, so are Runeword: Explode, Reckless Offense, and Thunder Strike. Unleash and Runeword: Burn are close, but not complete yet. I put one-one point into the rest of the skills, and improved some of them (Seal of Fate, Rune of Life, Energy Armor). Flame Surge doesn't have any points in it; my throwing weapons are a better substitute.

Thrown weapons and casting go wonderfully together. Your thrown weapons are amazing mid-range, but you're going to have a problem with enemies that strike you from a greater distance; archers and casters, most notably. I don't know if it was the case before Ragnarök or Anniversary Edition, but Volcanic Orb has effectively unlimited range; at least I can cast it at the edges and corners of the screen when fully zoomed out. It is my primary weapon for fighting archers, but it is also useful for drawing the attention of enemies to yourself, getting them to charge at you so you can greet them with a friendly Thunder Strike.

Eruption, as always, is the crowd-killer. I mainly used it against archers, and earlier on I liked to combine it with Guardian Stones for extra fun (it is actually quite powerful; I neglected to put points into it, however, so by late epic and legendary it fell behind). But whenever you run into a huge horde of enemies, it's going to serve you well.

Seal of Fate is too cumbersome to use regularly, but its resistance reduction combined with the incredible thrown DPS makes short work of almost all bosses. This also makes the Stonespeaker a good candidate for farming runs. Legendary Aktaios goes down in a matter of seconds, literally.

In my melee days I used to use Runic Mines extensively (Volcanic Orb to aggro them, surround yourself with Runic Mines, cut down all who survive) but I'm barely using it anymore. In fact, I'm considering removing the skill points from it. Melee-based enemies rarely live long enough to be affected by it, and they're not really dangerous most of the time, anyway.

And of course there's Thunder Strike. It is incredibly good against hordes, and just as incredibly good against bosses, who are likely to get hit by most if not all projectiles, provided you're close enough. Combine it with Seal of Fate (and don't forget to warm up with a few Runic Weapon shots) and you'll one-shot virtually anything that's not a final boss.

There's Energy Armor. I didn't think much of it initially. I thought the damage absorption was too low, until I got enough bonus to all skills in Rune mastery and a Shrine of Mastery. Its damage prevention gets insane on high levels; I managed to get some in the range of 2000-3000, though that usually needs equipment to reduce energy cost. I found it useful; it's how I stopped dying in Acts IV and V on epic. It prevents piercing and bleeding damage along with physical, so it's really useful in archer-infested places. I find it too tiresome to keep up constantly, but it's worth it when you're getting pelted. I died a few times farming legendary Aktaios because I didn't put Energy Armor up, deeming it unnecessary; if I'm unlucky enough to have Sensunet Mal spawn somewhere, he literally one-shots me with a single arrow (damage over time not included, I still don't know if he has any). That caused a few deaths.

So there you have it. I find that the Shotgun Stonespeaker is an incredibly versatile character. No trouble with crowds, no trouble with bosses, with actually decent protection. Did I mention the absurd amount of attack damage converted to health? Energy Drain gives 4%, the two Chakrams give 5% each. I can aggro several rooms' worth of Shadowstalkers, kill them all with the Chakrams in melee, and they don't put a dent in my health; I heal all damage back. It's probably not as impressive as I think, but my Runic Weapon attack one-shots practically every ordinary enemy I come across. I don't think I've ever had a character capable of regularly one-shotting mobs in Legendary. Sacred Rage is useful, not only for the fear, but because Frightening Power's resistance reduction allows you to leech some health off even undead. (Seal of Fate allows you to leech bosses similarly, which is incredible.)

So what are the weaknesses? While the Stonespeaker likes crowds and likes huge enemies, what it likes less are groups of small enemies that are small targets and are scattered over a large area. Like the Maenads, ugh. I'm glad I'm beyond Greece now just because they were horrible.
Poison is the Stonespeaker's Achilles' heel. As you can figure out looking at my equipment, I have nothing that gives poison resistance, and no protection against it. (No pierce resistance, either, but Energy Armor takes care of that if needed.) I still hope to find something that remedies it, but generally I could manage by playing carefully where I knew poison was a danger. And dying a few times. Oh well, I didn't have the pretense of not trying to die once, either.

That's it for now! Thanks for the immense patience to read it through if you did, and I hope you find it interesting. A somewhat resilient, versatile powerhouse: the Stonespeaker!

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