Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Devotion Oathbound Paladin PvE build for @NeverwinterGame

This guide for the Neverwinter game on ARC is for NW.80.20170417A.3, the 2017-May-1 first patch introducing the Shroud of Souls campaign (Mod 11b). There was only one announced change for Paladins having to do with PvP.

The focus of this build is PvE and healing. Typically, doing the solo content is not a problem unless you are severely undergeared, so we won't dwell too much on that. The main focus of this build is the observation that in dungeon / raids, what often kills party members is not your ability to keep up with healing -- just the Cure Wounds At-Will plus Bond of Virtue will typically keep everyone comfortably at or near their health maximum, mainly because enemy attack rate is pretty low. If someone should happen to dip below 75% typically they pop a potion or you have time to get to them.
What often kills party members -- which contributes toward the whole party wiping -- is someone suddenly taking a lot of damage. Sometimes you can quickly heal them through but if they are Defeated and Near-Death then you (or someone else) will have to quickly rescue them. If they take enough damage in one shot they will be Dead and that often means being locked out of a boss fight till the fight is ended or reset.
Sudden damage can be from bad luck and getting stuck in or clipped by a red zone, to getting ganged up on by a bunch of adds. Whatever the case, your build priority if you are to be a reliable healer is:
  • Top priority: Stay alive. This means you must also survive sudden damage bursts. More than that, you'll probably need to go in and revive someone although this should be the job of a dps character -- the tank needs to keep tanking and you need to keep healing the tank and everyone else.
  • Secondary priority: Massive emergency healing. If someone suddenly takes a lot of damage, you need to quickly get their health up so they don't become Defeated and either need to be revived or die outright. If revived, you need to quickly bring up their health.
    • We will NOT focus on running Aura of Life all the time! In my opinion that is wasting an Aura slot on a contingency that you should avoid to begin with. In a massive raid such as Greed of the Dragonflight, you might want to run it because it saves you from running over to everyone who's downed -- possibly having to run through red zones or other dangerous situations. But in smaller parties it's nicer to have more constant utility from your abilities.
Character Creation - Race
  • Human - A solid choice for 3% Defense (more survivability) and 3 extra Heroic Feat points. You lose Ability Score points but gain flexibility with Heroic Feat points. Those 3 points for the top tier feats can be worth more than just +2 to two Ability Scores. If you like customizing Feats, go Human.
  • Tiefling - Ability Scores in the right places, and a solid offensive ability in Bloodhunt. A good alternative to Human if focussing on solo PvE play.
Ability Scores
  • Maximize Constitution initially to squeeze as much Hit Points and Damage Resistance from your build.
  • You do not have any choice how the game assigns your Wisdom and Charisma, but as you level up, put points into Constitution (for more Hit Points and Damage Resistance), and Wisdom (for more Healing, Critical Chance, and Control).
  • Improving Charisma is not a bad choice for the Action Point Gain, but I would still recommend Constitution and Wisdom instead.
  • You can eventually get every power to Rank IV through Overflow Experience and the Sharandar Campaign Task "Assist the War Effort" so don't stress out too much about point assignment here. However, here are some recommendations:
    • For solo PvE I typically go with Burning Light, Templar's Wrath, and either Bane or Vow of Emnity. Pull the enemy, flash them with Templar's Wrath, and while they are stunned use that time to fully charge Burning Light to stun them even longer. Spam these to help your team handle larger mobs.
    • For small teams in dangerous dungeons I go with Bond of Virtue, Absolution, and Bane or Vow of Enmity.
      • Bond of Virtue to help you heal everyone all the time.
      • Absolution to keep up a big pool of Temporary Hit Points to survive sudden damage bursts.
      • Vow of Enmity on the main target so that every hit on it heals even when you are busy doing something else. If you are confident about being free to heal, go with stacks of Bane, which increases damage to the target and decreases their damage output.
    • For large teams or Dragonflight, if you can actually target the boss with Bane (often a teammate gets in the way and gets blessed instead), go with stacks of Bane on top of Vow of Emnity.
  • Absolution - Key power
    • It is very important to note the temporary points last until they are used up, so you can pre-emptively shield people with this. Use this to mitigate the chances of yourself and the person taking point getting suddenly killed.
    • It is critical to note you can only shield yourself and ONE other person. That person is the last person you chose to use this power on. Whoever the previous person was will lose the points.
    • Also use this as emergency healing because it works on percentages rather than absolute amounts. When an ally has over 100,000 Hit Points, it's hard to beat healing them instantly for half of that. Since these Temporary Hit Points last till eroded, they are just as good as real healing. You still do have to heal them, however, but you've bought them breathing room, and whatever healing they do on their own through potions and the like will not be redundant.
    • Refresh yourself whenever you can and top up the tank if you are not hurt. To reliably target yourself, you may have to look straight up.
  • Aura of Divinity
    • Great passive healing so you can concentrate on fighting while still healing. Still won't help against sudden massive bursts of damage but requires less attention than the At-Will healing power. Use this when the enemy isn't outputting a lot of damage, such as in a Skirmish, where it's usually less intense than a Dungeon.
  • Aura of Life
    • As mentioned before, we should aim to not need this but it has its place and you'll probably end up spending points on it anyway because of how Power Point spending works.
  • Aura of Truth
    • Not sexy for being a defensive aura, but every little bit counts when mitigating suddenly huge bursts of damage that can one-shot or nearly-one-shot an ally. If the dungeon you are in is suddenly one-shot-killing your teammates, choose this over auras than help output damage.
    • Based on the tooltip, it is not Damage Resistance so presumably it is not affected by the Damage Resistance cap, nor Armor Penetration.
  • Aura of Vengeance
  • Bane
    • Stacking three times means this power is actually a very strong support power such as when groups focus on a single boss.
    • The Oath of Devotion really reduces the utility by allowing allies to be affected because it is so much easier to have your line of sight blocked or interrupted in a large raid like Greed of the Dragonflight, thus missing your debuff on the enemy. Instead of everyone doing 10% more damage to the boss, only 1 person does 10% more damage.
      • For this reason, while I'd like to run it on Dungeons to reduce boss damage output, I usually run Vow of Enmity instead as its easier to aim.
    • The tooltip doesn't mention it, but Bane (and Vow of Enmity) does inflict damage when you debuff, so you do have some ranged attacks with which to pull mobs to you.
  • Banishment
    • Interesting power for general adventuring when you don't want to have to handle mobs -- flash them and run away. Otherwise too situational to really want to tie up an Encounter slot.
  • Burning Light and Templar's Wrath
    • Both notable for the stun duration. If your party gets mobbed, flash these in between healing as an enemy that is not attacking can't deal damage that you have to heal. Even flashing Burning Light without charging it up for a long time can be useful for the interrupt.
      • The worst part of Burning Light will be the long charge-up time. Often, by the time you charge it to max, the strikers in the party will have wiped out the trash mobs.
  • Healing Font
    • Fire-and-forget healing that you can put somewhere and walk away from, allowing you to heal in two places at once.
    • A duration long enough that you might be able to refill your Action Points fully and use another Daily Power before the Healing Font has expired.
  • Heroism
    • Looks great for emergencies except it's often too late to activate if you get downed by the attack. The Temporary Hit Points go away after the duration, so you still have to heal madly in the meantime. Doesn't help anyone else either (but you could pair it with the Prism Paragon Feat).
  • Lay on Hands
    • An interesting power that works on percentages. Good for emergency healing except you need to aim it right, and that can be hard to do in combat. Pre-emptive Absolution is still your better choice since you have more time to turn it on.
    • Also good when you need to protect non-player characters, such as the priests in the Throne of the Dwarven Gods skirmish where their immense number of Hit Points means conventional healing can take an excessively long time.
  • Oath Strike
    • If everyone (or the key healing target / tank) is close by, consider just whacking something with Oath Strike instead of putting out heals with Cure Wounds since the healing burst on each third strike should reach them as well, in addition to increasing your healing power by 10%.
  • Radiant Strike
    • Very good when you don't need so much constant healing (otherwise you swap out with Cure Wounds).
    • Key to note is the really broad area effect of this power. So if you need to move and/or hit the boss but don't want to get too close or directly attack, switch targets to a secondary one nearby and whack them with Radiant Strike.
  • Relentless Avenger
    • Knockback is a great interrupt but more often than not you will want to keep enemies grouped together for Area of Effect damage. There are times when you can knock enemies off into unplayable areas for an instant kill, but if you need tricks like that you are probably undergeared for the area.
  • Sanctuary
    • Remember there are lots of goodies here including damage resistance, healing, and getting immunity to Control Effects (clearing them as well by turning it on and walking out of a control zone). Sometimes your raid can't really move out of a continuous damage zone, so try shielding up.
    • If you are out of Divine Call energy and other burst-healing powers, you can definitely try just activating Sanctuary, which can heal quite a bit on top of granting damage resistance.
  • Vow of Enmity
    • Under the Oath of Devotion, allies striking the targeted enemy also get healed, making this a great fire-and-forget healing power especially if there is just one boss everyone is focussed on.
    • You can recast this anytime, either changing the Vow target or refreshing the duration on an existing one (or just to clear stacks of Purifying Fire).
    • Great for long-range support since you don't have to be there to heal if the person needing healing just continues to attack the target of the Vow.
    • You can get more damage against a boss with Bane, but against hard-hitting bosses like Orcus in Castle Never, Vow of Emnity is safer as it helps you put out continuous healing.
  • Some pretty tough choices here, though as a Human you would get 3 more points which can be very nice to really focus on the final tier and get the huge bonus to Critical Chance.
  • The key ones to get are:
    • Toughness and Steadfast to improve Hit Points above and beyond the bonuses from Constitution. Of course there is synergy with Aura of Courage, but for our goal of surviving sudden death, more Hit Points further boosted by keeping up the 20%-50% Temporary Hit Points from Absolution really helps.
    • Light's Shield to maximize your Damage Resistance (which does however have a cap of 80%, however).
    • Exemplar's Haste - Although the bonus tops out at 6%, there are too many synergies involving Encounter Powers to not take every opportunity to maximize them, especially when some of them take a long time to recharge.
  • Divine Call related Heroic Feats - pass
    • Divine Call really generates very slowly in combat. Unless combat lasts a very long time, you are unlikely to flash it more than three or four times in your healer role. When you need it, however, you might spend two or even three in one go, such as when multiple teammates are suddenly at low Hit Points (because the Oath of Devotion lets you heal for 50% more if you use it again within 10 seconds).
    • However, because we don't get to use it very often, we feel it is fine to give Divine Call feats a pass. This includes Divine Action (Activating Divine Call gives 1/2/3/4/5% maximum Action Points) and Impassioned Pleas (you generate Divine Call energy 2/4/6% faster).
    • Instead, we will aim for Vengeful Judge, which gives Encounter Powers a chance to immediately grant a charge of Divine Call. The behind-the-scenes mechanic is more likely to be 100% with a 30-second cooldown. It does however make the small bonus from Divine Action look expensive for 5 feats.
      • Vengeful Judge of course also gives +35% damage for 10 seconds, which theoretically means you are relying on Divine Call a lot -- but that is generally for solo play. If you are the mission critical healer I recommend saving Divine Call for emergency healing -- referring to our Secondary Priority for this build, Divine Call can be activated twice quickly with no aiming required, and you give bonus healing on the second Divine Call.
      • In solo play your healing powers generally let you outlast most foes, so I recommend using the damage bonus from Vengeful Judge to augment your Divine Judgement by flashing Divine Call between Vow of Emnity and Divine Judgement.
  • If you picked Human to play, you get three extra points which can let you also get Divine Wisdom or Force of Will. Easily worth more than 2-4 Ability Points.
Paragon Feats
Although survivability suggests going the Bulwark path, as a healer who is not meant to draw enemy aggro, that path is an inferior choice. As a healer, the Light path is also an apparently natural choice, but this build is based on the premise that we are normally over-healing already, and need help with survivability and emergency healing. With the Justice Path, we get a lot of support powers plus powers that synergize with Encounter powers, which everyone spams.
  • Swift Flash - Once every 10 seconds you move faster for 4 seconds. The actual utility of this is honestly not that great, especially considering you need to get hit first.
  • Bound By Light - To support our use of Burning Light and Templar's Wrath.
  • Flash of Light - Apparently doesn't help you, and 25% chance to reduce cooldown by 10% basically averages to a 2.5% cooldown reduction for allies whenever you use an Encounter Power. However, it's this or Shining Beacon, which requires you to be hurt for you to benefit. Between the two, Flash of Light will see more utility more often especially if tank pulls all aggro from you and you just need to watch out for area effects.
  • Stem the Tide is pretty much useless unless you are in a solo instance. You need the most help with group content such as Heroic Encounters and dungeons, so this is a waste of points.
  • Beacon of Hope sounds good because of the big numbers, but it is actually very chancy and situational.
    • It is wasted if your allies are doing fine.
    • It's random so it will not necessarily heal the person who needs it the most, nor at the moment they need it. You can pulse Cure Wounds out faster than that.
    • It will give out three heals over the six seconds for weapon damage, which is probably around 2% health. You can probably do faster better and at any time with any other healing power.
  • Purifying Fire
    • The way it works is, if you land five hits within 60 seconds without interrupting the target with an Encounter Power, at 5/5 you will have done an extra 10% + 20% + 40% + 80% + 160% weapon damage as Physical Damage. This is 5 stacks and further hits do not inflict any more bonus damage until the stacks are cleared.
    • Five hits within 60 seconds is pretty easy to do, so this works out to an average of a 62% damage bonus on weapon damage.
    • Since our feats support trying to use Encounter Powers frequently, we can clear the Purifying Fire stacks often enough for it to be useful -- even Bane or Vow of Enmity will clear the stacks.
    • Radiant Strike will apply Purifying Fire to all targets affected by the Radiant Strike!
    • Generally this is the solo adventuring choice. Since solo adventuring isn't typically all that challenging, I recommend Prism over Purifying Fire.
  • Prism means everyone gets healed when you are healed.
    • You have to activate a Daily Power, but the duration is long enough (up to 20 seconds) that you don't have to time this power for when you suddenly need it.
    • Transforms a non-healing Daily Power into a healing one. Great when you want to slot Divine Judgement or emergency short-term defenses like Shield of Faith. For healing Dailies, this is probably overkill and may still not help you enough in emergency-healing situations.
After reaching Vengeful Judge from the Justice path, you have 15 more Paragon Feats (at Level 70) to spend. Good feats to aim for:
  • Bulwark tier 2 Divine Innervate
    • If you restore HP to an ally (does not activate if you do not actually restore health with your healing power), you will also increase their Damage Resistance.
    • This is not bad, although in the sudden-damage scenarios we are trying to mitigate, this may come too late unless you were already healing them as they took smaller amounts of damage -- a likely scenario given that you can spread healing around to everyone pretty much all the time with Bond of Virtue.
    • 2.5% is rather low, but you can't expect that much from a low-tier Paragon feat. Still, it works on percentages and 2.5% off a huge burst of incoming damage works out to a potential lifesaver.
  • Light tier 2 Light Touched
    • This helps you get more Action Points from healing spells, which you will be using a lot of in group content.
    • Even without this you can refill your Action Points before Healing Font expires.
Gear
So far we've talked about things that will cost you a Retraining Token to change. Gear (including Companion and Mount powers) is more flexible, so for gearing, I actually recommend prioritizing Power, and secondarily Defense -- with the caveat that you get something like Barkshield Enchantment to help against sudden bursts of damage. Even the basic Barkshield will make a huge difference.
Also watch for Artifact, Companion, and Mount powers that trigger healing when you are incapacitated (e.g., stunned), low on health, or suffer a large hit. Adding all those will greatly help you survive sudden bursts of damage, leaving you free to direct the various bonuses on the rest of your gear.

Once you can comfortably handle sudden damage and survive it or heal through it, then to make life more bearable in solo play, prioritize Power and Defense (in that order), and Critical if you want to work on a third stat.
More Power will
  • Help you kill things faster in solo play and make life less tedious.
  • Strengthen your heals, making allowing you to quickly heal a target back up to full health.
  • Increase your passive and side-effect healing such as from Oath Strike, leaving you more room to contribute to damage -- remember that with Oath Strike plus Vow of Enmity you can both fight and heal in melee at the same time.
If you feel you need more defense, you can adjust your gear quite easily in general so don't worry too much about it.