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Class Action: Battlemind – Defense and Powers, 1st Level

March 21, 2010

NOTE: I get many hits per day on this and the other battlemind article I have posted in the Dungeon. The posts were made shortly after the PHB3 Game Day and based on my experience playing a battlelmind then. A lot has changed since then.

If you are looking for a good guide and information on battleminds, check out langeweile’s Battlemind Handbook.

My previous battlemind article focused on the base, starting mechanics of how well  how well the battlemind can defend her party mates. In this second article on the new psionic defender I’ll take a look at how well she can defend herself.

As mentioned in the prior article, a battlemind  starts out knowing how to use scale armor and a heavy shield. This would give a starting battlemind AC 19.  You could take  Armor Proficiency (Plate) for a single point gain in AC, but that requires Strength and Constitution 15.

For a Con/Str, Con/Wis, or Con/Cha bonus race, using the beginning ability score array of 16, 15, 14, 11, 10, 8 would wind up 18, 16, 15, 11, 10, 8. These are decent level stats if you are willing to forgo a starting Con 20, or Con 18 + Wis or Cha 18 array.

A tertiary Strength based battlemind build is not as unintuitive as you might think. Aside from opening up plate armor use, it helps to ameliorate a semi-defense related deficiency of the battlemind – opportunity attacks.

Unless Strength is boosted or one of the Melee Training feats are chosen, the battlemind is restricted to rather lackluster OAs. With blurred step’s limitations outlined in my previous post, there is very little a non-OA optimized battlemind can do to deter enemies from simply walking away unscathed.

Simply put, without a lot of forethought and careful building, the battlemind is not very adept at opportunity attacks.

Sorry about the side trip into OA-land. But the flaw in the build needed to be addressed. Back to self defense!

Hit points are pretty good for a battlemind. With Constitution the primary stat, you know you’ll be  tough. At 1st level you get 15 + Constitution, then 6 per level afterward. A typical battlemind with an 18 Con will have 33 hit points, 16 bloodied value, a surge value of 8, and 13 surges per day. If you wanted to burn a feat on Toughness you could be looking at 38 hp, 19 bloodied, 9 surge value, and 13 surges.

There are two encounter powers in the class feature Psionic Study, a battlemind may choose one of them.

Battle resilience is a Wisdom based defensive free action that gives 3 + Wisdom modifier resists all until the end of your next turn. It triggers off an attack hitting or missing you for the first time in an encounter.

Speed of thought is a Charisma based offensive positioning free action which allows you to move 3 + charisma modifier when initiative is rolled for the encounter. This can be used in a surprise round. Obviously it is very effective at getting the battlemind into the fray early. Considering Dexterity is a low priority for most defenders, initiative modifiers are usually low as well. This power will help overcome the slow and lumbering defender stereotype.

However, as this article is (mostly) about the battleminds personal defense, we’ll look more closely at battle resilience.

Battle resilience suffers from some of the ambiguity of other battlemind powers. It is a free action with a trigger. A free action takes no time (or very little time) and can be taken on your or another combatant’s turn. Thus, strictly speaking, as soon as the attack is made against the battlemind, she can use battle resilience.

The ambiguity of this depends on how your DM rules free actions and where in the resolution of the triggering attack you may use the power and gain the resistance.

Battle resilience is usable ONLY on the first attack against you during an encounter. Thus its usefulness is already severely limited.

If your DM allows free actions at any time, you could wait until you see if the attack hits and trigger it before the damage is dealt. Thus you save yourself 3 + Wis mod initial damage. I feel this is the intent of this power – to absorb some of an opening attack’s damage and provide possible defense against further damage until the end of your next turn.

If your DM only allows the power to trigger after the attack is resolved battle resilience becomes somewhat less useful. It can still help soak up further attack damage until the end of your next turn, but that initial hit still gets through fully. And it is quite possible no other damaging attacks are sent your way before the power ends.

To muddle things even more, your DM’s ruling on what constitutes an attack can affect whether you avoid any damage from the initial attack. Let’s say you have a Wis mod of +4 giving you a resistance 7 all. Then a power or ability with multiple to hit and damage rolls are used against you –  claw/claw/bite for 7/12/14 damage. If your DM rules an attack is a single d20 roll, you would take 0/5/7  damage. If your DM rules all d20 rolls included in a power are considered one attack, then you would take 0/12/14 damage. A difference of 12 damage vs. 26 is significant.

You may want to discuss with your DM what he considers an attack.

The battlemind’s four current at-will standard attack powers each have a defensive aspect to them, actually giving the defender some minimal (mostly) single target controller ability, too. All of them are Constitution vs. AC and does 1[W] + Constitution modifier damage on a hit, unaugmented.

Demon dance does psychic damage opposed to the rest of the level 1 at-wills’ untyped damage.  It also imposes a -5 penalty to opportunity attack rolls until the end of your next turn. Positioning just got a little less hazardous for you and your allies with an effective +5 to your AC.

Augment 1 is more situational by removing the target’s threatening reach. there are not too many baddies out there with it, but when you do run into one, this could be useful.

Augment 2 does more damage (2[W] + Con mod) and the target cannot make opportunity attacks until the end of your next turn. More easy positioning when needed.

Iron fist grants the battlemind resist all equal to the battlemind’s Wisdom modifier. Less damage taken equal more health retained and more hits able to be withstood. If you have someone in the group who offers THP, paired with resist all you could be taking little to no damage from most attacks. Resist all is also great against ongoing damage. Just remember, damage resistance does not stack; only the higher damage resistance is effective. So if you have someone in the group who offers damage resistance, this ability is less useful.

Augment 1 changes the resist to fire resist 5 + Wisdom modifier. More situational, but useful.

Augment 2 just does more damage,  2[W] + constitution modifier.

Bull’s strength pushes the target 1 square. This is okay for some positioning options, but it is limited. A slide would have been better. Pushing your target away is contrary to a defender’s role. you really want those suckers focused on you, and within weapon range. If you push the enemy away, it is like giving it a free shift back from you. This has minor use, but overall is counter-productive. (Yes, I realize you do not have to push the target, but then you are making a glorified basic attack.)

Augment 1 increases your reach by 1 for this attack. Now it’s getting more useful. In tight quarters and something is harrying your squishies? No problem, augment bull’s strength with a power point, reach right past the baddies surrounding you, and shove the annoying bugger right out your squishy’s grill!

Augment 2 makes this attack a blast 3. It is against all creatures, not just enemies, so you need to take some care your allies are not in the way. This is an effective minion clearer as well as an Oh Sh!t attack. It still pushes any target hit 1 square. If your group lacks good minion control or other AoE damage, this is practical, if limited in use by available power points.

Twisted Eye gives the target a penalty to attack rolls equal to the number of your allies adjacent to it on hit. The penalty lasts until the end of your next turn. Two factors play into this power: how many mêlée allies you have and how willing they are to position themselves properly for this to be effective. Melee light partys will see less effect from this than those with at least 3+ mêlée, or at least ranged willing to move into harm’s way. This becomes very effective in heavier mêlée groups against single targets, especially élite and solo targets.

Augment 1 allows this at-will to be used in place of a basic mêlée attack. I wish this were part of the base power and did not cost a power point. But, in later levels, with more than the initial 2 power points to spend, this might become more useful.

Augment 2 also blinds the target until the end of your next turn. This is actually pretty great. The target is now granting combat advantage, everyone has total concealment from it, and it cannot flank.

Whirling defense marks the target until the end of your next turn. Wow! You could conceivably have THREE (!!!) marked targets at once with continued use (and hits) of this power (and augmenting battlemind’s demand to mark two others). Useless against minions as a hit will pretty much explode them.

Augment 1 boost your mind spike damage by your Charisma modifier if you use it before the end of your next turn. Gambling one power point a marked target adjacent to you will attack someone besides you is risky. It depends on how the DM plays the marked creatures. If he often ignores marks to attack others, then it might be worthwhile.

Augment 2 turns this into a close burst 1. Another nice minion sweeper or a way to get a group of enemies focused on you for a round. The biggest drawback of this is mind spike is an immediate reaction, so even if you are able to punish one mark ignoring bugger, the others can pretty much do so with impunity –  aside from the -2 penalty to their attack rolls.

Which two would I take at first level, you ask?

Demon dance and twisted eye have some nice synergy. You can set your allies up to position themselves with less hazard adjacent to your main target, then impose a hefty attack roll penalty on it. I also like the blinding aspect of twisted eye’s augment 2. But this combo really needs at least 3 mêlée in the party to be effective.

I would probably take iron fist for the resist all (especially if paired with a THP tossing leader), twisted eye for the possible attack roll penalty and to blind a target to help set up a nova, or whirling defense for the added mark and possible minion sweeper use.

The level 1 daily disciplines also have some defensive uses to them, though I will not go into as deep of detail as i did with the at-wills. (Go buy the PHB3, you mooching buggers!)

Allies to enemies – psychic damage, and a forced mêlée basic attack? This does not sound as bad as it might. It all depends on how much damage the BBEG or his henchmen are capable of doing with that basic mêlée attack. Thus it is a bit situational. Not a horrible choice, though.

Aspect of elevated harmony – self-healing and the ability to gain some THP off augmented at-wills. Nice if the party lacks sufficient healing. Even better when you start getting more than 2 power points. Otherwise pass.

Psionic anchor – teleport the target to a square next to me when it ends its turn? Yo-yo sticky. The target can still move away and attack others, this just makes it annoying to do so. If you use it on a non-marked target it increases in value.

Steel unity strike – Why does this make me think of Jimmy Hoffa? This does more damage than the other three level 1 dailies and you go into a stance. A very special stance which allows you to make a 2[W] + Con mod damage Constitution vs AC attack against any marked adjacent enemy that moves without shifting. Can you say non-gimped opportunity attack? A decent choice if you want better OA’s on your marked baddie and do not have the Strength tertiary build.

There you have it. A breakdown of a first level battlemind, sans racial commentary. Okay, sans feats, skills, and gear, too. ;p

The deeper I delved into the battlemind, the less I felt disappointed in it.  I still do not think it is the easiest defender class to play, and much of the class’ features are ambiguous, confusing, and open to DM interpretation. It is flavorful, however, and not totally broken. I like the battlemind better after my research and dissection than when i played one in the PHB3 Game Day.

I am unsure if I will create one for the Encounters sessions, however. Maybe if my group really needs a defender. Otherwise I think i might go with a monk …. ;)

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