Friday, November 6, 2009

Inglourious basterd sword rogues

Today in DDI we have another marvelous article by Mike Mearls, who redefined the Wizard class only two days ago. It's devoted to the Rogue, and only three pages long, but the density of good options is such that its impact on the class is almost comparable to that of Martial Power.

It's not so much power creep as the complete eradication of anything resembling filler material - almost every power and feat presented here is playable, and some are serious contenders as the best ones in their slots. This has a lot of merit, as I think rogues are one of the most difficult classes to design encounter powers for, and the only way to make such attacks shine seemed to be turning them into minor or immediate actions. Every attack in this article costs a standard action, and still they manage to be awesome.

The article is themed around Duelist Rogues, who are focused in melee and like isolating enemies and fighting them without support, something that was previously almost impossible to pull off with the class. Crucially, there are now feats and powers that allow Sneak Attacking in melee without flanking. A new at-will called Duelist's Flurry slides and deals this damage at the cost of losing the weapon damage die, making it the perfect backup power. Melee rogues will still want to flank (attacking with other at-wills) in order to deal as much damage as possible, but having this as an option is a good safeguard for the times it isn't possible to do so. The power will also see ocasional use even with combat advantage, just because of the slide. The other Sneak Attack enabler is a feat called Flash of the Blade, which works only with rapiers and allows using the class feature if both you and the target have nobody else adjacent.

It's a good thing that rapiers got an important boost, as they are getting fierce competitors in the high-damage rogue weapon department. In what is likely the most significant contribution in this article, the new feat Versatile Duelist allows all (one handed) heavy blades to be used with both rogue powers and Sneak Attack, and grants proficiency with the military ones to boot. This means that a rogue can now use a Longsword as easily as a Rapier (at the cost of a feat), and more importantly that Bastard Swords (and their sweet d10 damage) also become an option, even if they cost a whooping two feats.

As for the power selection, most are variations on two main mechanics. The first one is granting additional movement (shifting a good deal of squares) and significant bonuses to defenses when you attack, helping the squishy rogues to actually survive when isolating their prey. The other one puts the rogue in a sort of temporary defensive stance for a turn, enabling counterattacks against enemies targeting the rogue, or just passing by. A power that stands out is the Level 5 daily Duelist's Demand which, if it works, makes an opponent incapable of escaping from you and granting you combat advantage for the rest of the encounter! This is probably the best 'duel' style power I have seen to date.

A must read for anyone remotely related to a Rogue.


  1. while I really like this article, the Versatile Duelist feat vaguely reminds me of the scene from 'the Gamers' where a rogue did a sneak attack with a ballista.

  2. As soon as I saw this article, I forwarded it to my group's rogue.

    Yeah, I'm a masochistic DM.

  3. Versatile Duelist seems to be to be for Githzerai rogues. As d8 -> d10 damage dice just to wield a bastard sword is a pain when you already get longsword proficiency at the cost of a feat, but if you get Weapon Focus (+1) damage along the way, it's a bit more worth it.

    If there wasn't MAD problems, I'd wanna try out a Rogue/Swordmage.