I’ve been playing in a D&D campaign for quite some time now (2+ years) and prior to/in the beginning of that campaign, I spent a lot of time planning out my character and his progression into epic. Of course, we started at level 1, so my character’s power level was much, much lower and all the pieces I had planned hadn’t come together. Until now. Here’s the build, which I feel is one of the best Battlemind Brutal Barrage builds available (not to mention the stylish title alliteration).
Now, before I begin, I’d like to bring up an important point. For many builds you will find posted around the internet, you rarely (if ever) see any personal anecdotes about the build in actual play, and this is usually because every campaign is different, so bringing in campaign factors can lead to information that is less useful to a large number of people. Further, this blog is focused on the “nuts and bolts” more than the stories. However, I’m bringing up my personal experiences with this build. Specifically, I want to “prove” that the build is actually useable in a real game, and show that the theory actually was useful in a real campaign that lasted years, and not just in a silly one-shot.
This Battlemind|Warlock build is designed to be a tough striker that can still perform some of the defender role. At different levels it hits many striker damage benchmarks while maintaining several defender benchmarks (see the 4e character optimization forums for more information on these) throughout most of its levels. Much of its optimization is around cold damage, cold vulnerability, proning and pushing, meaning it can easily synergize with the party. I really like this character as a party member that puts out punishing damage consistently yet is hard to stop. Use this build if you like powerful action economy, high mobility, and being a party member that is a serious threat round after round while not falling over in a stiff breeze.
Acronyms and Definitions:
AoE – Area of Effect
BM – Battlemind
DM – Dungeon Master
DPR – Damage Per Round
FSFS – Five Stars, Five Strikes
PP – Power Points
WL – Warlock
I started off as a Tiefling Battlemind, which I did mostly for the cool factor and to push things around the battlefield ridiculous distances. However, after our first half dozen encounters or so, it became quickly obvious that we had no damage output(Shielding Swordmage, Dwarf Cleric, Changeling Vampire… enough said). So in order for our combats to resolve faster than a session of the United States Congress, the DM allowed me to “retrain” my character, including change my class. I looked around for awhile, tempted by the Sorcerer (mostly because I wished we had one to take advantage of my battlefield control) but eventually settled on a Hybrid build – Battlemind/Warlock.
Now, that build did work well for awhile. My damage was raised significantly and a true ranged attack really helped my character more than I expected. However, by mid-Paragon and through now (almost epic) the warlock hybrid is looking weaker and weaker. If you aren’t starting at lower levels, I’d consider cutting Warlock and either going with another Hybrid or straight Battlemind. However, in Heroic, the Warlock Hybrid is very important to your damage output.
While technically most of your pieces are in place as soon as level 13, the first time I felt this build really clicked(and was self-reliant) was at level 16, where you can Mind Blade -> Brutal Barrage -> Brutal Barrage. Here’s your ideal scenario, assuming no outside help:
Buffing: Frozen Whetstone
Move: Activate FSFS
Standard: Mind Blade (use Dice of Auspicious Fortune, Insightful Riposte, Earth Stone, etc to guarantee hit)
Minor: Brutal Barrage (spend 4PP)
Action Point: Brutal Barrage (spend 4PP)
Nova Damage at 17
6[CON]+ 4[CHA] + 6[Soaring Blade] + 5[Cold Vulnerability] + 10[Prone] + 2[Frozen Whetstone] + 2d10[Soaring Blade] + 4d6[crit damage] + 16[Ring of Giants] = 74 average damage per hit
(2d10[Soaring Blade] + 4d6[crit damage] +1d8[FSFS] + 16 Ring of Giants) * 3.8[hits] = 128.1 FSFS damage
7.6[hits] * 74[damage/hit] + 128.1 [FSFS] = 690.5 average damage
This can be raised through Twofold Pact and taking Elemental Pact, better vulnerability(such as from a cleric helping you) or bonus damage (bonus to damage rolls won’t work, however). Note that none of this damage comes from the Warlock side unless you take Twofold Pact. So you can safely drop that half if all you care about is Brutal Barrage damage output. Also, while Melegaunt’s Darkblade is probably the best option for the build in most cases, it doesn’t really help the nova at all.
Note: This is assuming that you hit on anything but a 1(95% hit rate). However, between single primary stat, high proficiency, Barrage Bracers and the target being unconcious, I feel this is a pretty reasonable assumption.
Bolded entries are required. Italicized entries are not technically required, but highly recommended. Everything else can be substituted out for taste. You’ll see that I don’t do items and powers from past where I’m at currently(level 17). By the time you’ve gotten to this point, all of the key pieces are in place. From there, you can pretty much add powers/items as you see fit.
WL Attack 1: Eyes of the Vestige – Just used to improve your action economy.
WL Attack 1: Chromatic Bolt – Use Eyes of the Vestige. Unfortunately you can’t re-train out of this.
WL Utility 2: Assassin’s Bane – Stops a lot of annoying opponent movement/abilities.
BM Attack 3: Lodestone Lure – This could really be whatever power you want. Between Brutal Barrage and your Warlock At-Wills you will probably never use it.
BM Attack 5: Empathic Feedback – Solid AoE damage, forced movement and temp hp when you need it.
BM Utility 6: Mental Triumph – Rarely useful, even less so when you can teleport. But situationally powerful.
BM Attack 7: Lightning Rush – Your only real way to be a defender.
WL Attack 9: Vestige of the Onyx Queen – Sorely needed AoE damage, but you can do without.
WL Utility 10: Ethereal Sidestep – When you can use this power to teleport multiple squares, get combat advantage and a bonus to defenses, you’ll basically only use this power when moving from then on.
WL Attack 13: Ice Blades of Levistus – Ranged, reliable mark.
BM Attack 13: Brutal Barrage – This is the power the build optimizes around.
BM Attack 15: Mind Blade – This allows for ridiculous novas, making you one of the best solo killers (Seriously, look up how many solos can chump 600+ damage in a single round). Already highly accurate (weapon vs Will), you can make this near-guaranteed with Dice of Auspicious Fortune, Insightful Riposte and Earth Stone.
Insight Utility 16: Insightful Riposte – Make key attacks more reliable? Yes please.
WL Attack 17: Life Force Reclaimed – Big chunk of temp hp for the party member most likely to be attacked.
The only noteworthy power after this point is Brilliant Recovery, for extra damage nearly every turn. It won’t do anything for your nova in most cases, however it brings up your average DPR quite nicely.
F- Versatile Expertise: Math fix. Pick Heavy Blades and Ki Focuses.
F- Melee Training [Constitution]: Gameplay fix.
1 Hybrid Talent [Scale]: Needed to hit defender benchmarks.
2 Master of the Fist: Needed for Soaring Blade. Also gets you Ki Focuses, which removes your need to weapon juggle to use Warlock powers.
4 Cursed Shadow: Basically reads +2 to all defenses. Take this.
6 Arcane Familiar: Useful for being Batman.
8 Improved Defenses: Math fix.
10 Wintertouched [removed]: Placeholder, gets retrained right away for another Paragon feat.
11 Heavy Blade Opportunity: At-wills as OAs are awesome.
11R Lasting Frost: A big increase in your damage output. Do not leave home without this.
12 Reserve Maneuver: We houseruled this works with Psionic powers, but it doesn’t RAW. Skip it if your DM wouldn’t houserule it in your favor.
14 Two-Fold Pact: Used to get Elemental Pact, which rarely provides a big boost in damage. Substitute out to taste.
16 Headsman’s Chop: Boring, reliable, extra damage.
18 Two-Weapon Fighting: Used to get TWO and TWFl. These sac your shield, however, so look at getting more defense feats soon.
20 Two-Weapon Opening: You crit lots, and this gives you more damage when you do.
21 Two-Weapon Flurry: Lots of bonus OA damage, which you do well and often.
22 Warding Curse: Given how tough you are to hit already, this just makes it even more ridiculous.
24 Armor Prof Plate: Opens up some useful enchantments and bumps up your AC.
26 Mark of Storms: Silly tricks abound with this and Soaring Blade’s level 16 ability. Forced movement on every attack? Yes please. Push it sooner if you can afford to do so.
28 Epic F/R/W: Pick where you’re getting hit the most. Probably Reflex.
30 Quickened Spellcasting: Maybe redundant with Brilliant Recovery, but more minor action attack options never hurt.
Now I do make a few assumptions here, but I feel they are aspects of a campaign you can negotiate. Many DMs I’ve seen (and online as well) give away one expertise feat and the Melee Training feat. If you don’t have either of this for free, I’d drop Melee Training (you don’t rely on your OA that much and replace it with Heavy Blade Opportunity eventually anyways) and find something to drop for Expertise(Reserve Maneuver or Two-Fold Pact). Other feats to consider include Fluid Motion, Bloodied Boon, Heavy Armor Agility, Critical Reserve, Icy Heart, Deadly Draw, and Warlock’s Wrath.
I’m only going to cover items you should really, really have or have unusual interactions. Pick others to taste.
Siberys Shard of Merciless Cold: Not as useful as normal, but still worth the money.
Frozen Whetstone: You need this.
Rain of Hammers Ki Focus: Slotless minor action attack with a near guaranteed trigger? If I must.
Cloak of Translocation: By 10 you’ll be teleporting every turn. This shores up your weakest defense nicely.
Five Stars Five Strikes: A huge damage bonus, but some DMs don’t allow boons.
Dice of Auspicious Fortune: Get these. Every melee really should have a set eventually.
Melegaunt’s Darkblade Longsword: Better crit-fishing weapon for you than a Jagged weapon.
Gauntlets of Brutality: Basically 5 bonus damage on nearly every attack you’ll make.
Potion of Lesser Haste: You are pretty starved for extra move actions. Consider these highly.
Barrage Bracers: An awesome little gem I can’t take credit for finding (thanks to my party Cleric), but the hit bonuses really stack up.
Ring of Giants: You crit often, and these give a flat, large bonus to them. Do I really need to explain anything more?
Now, obviously, the nova relies on two daily powers, and the build lacks any way to recover them. However, the round-to-round damage is respectable with a very solid attack bonus, and even can hit high striker milestones at several points during its career. Your primary role in combat is try to stay as central as possible, moving every round to targets that are likely to use ranged or powerful (preferably both) attacks on weaker party members and ruin their fun with a combination of Lightning Rush, Brutal Barrage and forced movement. You’ll usually want to Lightning Rush off turn, using Brutal Barrage on OAs, and use Brutal Barrage / encounter attack powers during your turn.
Unlike a lot of other highly-focused characters, your reliance(or really, ability to spam) on Brutal Barrage means that a lot of your other powers are open to cover your weaknesses. Ranged attack powers from Warlock can cover Battlemind’s lack of range, and you can make up for Battlemind’s lackluster “utility” powers with some of the best utility powers in the game cherry-picked from Warlock. Seriously, some of the powers they never use are amazing for you (due to their aversion to being close to enemies and your strong desire for it). Brutal Barrage optimization means that you cover the Warlock’s worst flaw – single target burst & sustained damage.
Finally, you make an okay party face. Since your Charisma should be high and you can train in some important social skills (most notably Bluff and Intimidate), this gives you a surprising amount of social capability for an awkward defender/striker, even if you’re basically a politician (e.g. can only lie and browbeat others to get your way instead of negotiating).
Your toughness and access to physical skills makes you useful in those environmental skill challenges as well. Unfortunately you only have a few skill picks, so choose wisely. All combined, this build combines a surprising amount of depth outside of combat.
Minions. No, really. While you do have a little AoE from Warlock, Battlemind AoE is either non-existent or bad, and the Warlock AoE powers aren’t enough to make up for this. Further, you can only Lightning Rush once per round, meaning that having a swarm of enemies beating on your Leader makes your job a lot harder. Your only real consolation is that any hit from Brutal Barrage will drop the minion (except for those save negates nuisances).
Big battlefields. Lightning Rush is a huge part of your ability to actually defend, so if the enemies are able to spread out it makes your life suck(thanks, static range!). You have plenty of options for mobility during your turn at least.
Highly mobile fights. Specifically, I’m referring to where combatants are frequently moving 10+ squares in a round, common in flying/vehicle/heavy forced movement situations. Every defender suffers this problem to some extent, but Lightning Rush’s fixed range and no other ranged punishment makes bouncing around the map a headache for you. Sure, you’re the best defender at bouncing around, but it’s still not fun. In short, you’re fast and agile, but you really hate anything faster and more agile than you.
Difficult terrain. More of a nuisance than anything since you can teleport, but it does hamper you in Heroic and hurt your Lightning Rush.
And that sums up a rather lengthy article about my best Battlemind build. Think I missed something? Tried it out and have feedback? Let me know in the comments below.