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Fighting in groups

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Fighting as a Group[edit]

Also known as "Why are they shouting at me?"

DDO is a game built around adventuring in groups, yet the actual experience of doing so is sometimes very frustrating, particularly with impromptu pick-up groups (or "PUGs"). With the exception of the rare player who really is a social misfit instead of merely pretending to be, this is usually due to a lack of knowledge about how to play different roles in a group.

In Korthos, you can get away with charging at the baddies all together and hacking or blasting them to death. While satisfying, this is poor preparation for the exacting ballet that will be required in the combats to come, where every character has their own role to play.

Notice the word "role". This has no formal definition, but the informal usage is consistent in the game, and we use it to distinguish it from Classes (which are not the same). For instance, not all Rogues specialize in the role of trap disarming, nor do all Clerics specialize in the role of healer.

An example group[edit]

How do the veterans do it, then? Every actual fight is different, and usually much messier than the participants intended, but certain simple principles apply almost every time. These are best explained by example, so let's look at a hypothetical fight.

Our brave party consists of Jeets (a halfling trapsmith), Cellimas (a human healer), Talbron (a warforged caster), Fred (a dwarven tank), and you. You play an elven archer, which is one of the most popular choices for newcomers. (Some believe that archery is under-powered in DDO, and that the -2 CON handicap to elves is painful at higher levels.)

Everyone also has a secondary role. Jeets and Fred have decent "DPS", and even you have discovered when to drop your bow and swing a pair of swords. Cellimas and Talbron have good (but different) buffs, and Cellimas can exert some "crowd control".

A typical battle[edit]

At about level 4, which is when fighting as a team starts to be important, you decide to mount your first Assault on Splinterskull Fortress attack. At the entrance, you all stop for Cellimas and Talbron to do their thing, and fortified with spell-based goodness, you manage to beat off the ambush of spiders. You trot down the rocky passageway with Jeets in front, ready to stop dead if he was to shout “TRAP” in chat. (None of you would ever impatiently run on ahead, or edge forward just to see where the so-called trap lay.)

Now the walls ahead change to neatly built masonry. Clearly you are approaching some sort of habitation. And there, pointing at you in alarm, are two hobgoblins. You, as the archer, do not just let fly at the nearest, because then the two of them would charge after you in person. Instead you wait until Fred has landed the first blow before loosing arrows to help take them down.

Unfortunately a third hobgoblin runs for a large gong hanging there, and suddenly a whole squad of enemies is charging down the corridor. With great self-discipline, the rest of you dispose yourselves properly, while Fred alone attacks them front on. Jeets drops into sneak mode, and heads for the wall to get around the side of them. Cellimas jumps up on a box, out of danger but where she has a good view of the proceedings. Talbron steps back so he is away from the action but still in casting range, and you step to one side to get a good line of sight on the enemy at the back.

As soon as Fred has landed his first blow (thus ensuring that the enemy aggro is centered on him), the rest of you let fly.

Jeets the DPS[edit]

Jeets attacks the nearest hobgoblin from behind, with both longsword and shortsword whirling. Because he has trained in two-weapon fighting he avoids some of the penalty for having a blade in each hand. He is hitting twice as often as Fred, and he has the sneak attack bonus. He knows that he does not need to be actually sneaking to get this, just attacking an enemy with its back to him.

Jeets takes down that hobgoblin quickly, but he is aware of his weak armor and low health. He is safe only while the hobgoblins are focused on Fred, so he backs up to the wall to avoid attention. Jeets might even use Diplomacy (often wrongly regarded by some as a useless skill) which can help creatures of small brain-power to decide that the little halfling is no threat, and that they really ought to focus on that big fighter over there.

One look around reassures him that no-one is looking his way so he dives in again, to demolish the Slayer that for some reason is sitting there looking dazed. "Get in there quick", he mutters, "before they recover". He moves on at the back of the crowd, and every time he slips round to a new enemy he takes half a second to plant his feet firmly, before each new attack. (Without the Spring Attack feat, this is the only way to avoid the big penalty for attacking while moving.)

Fred the Tank[edit]

Fred is wielding his enormous two-handed great sword to good effect. It does more damage than any single handed weapon, but its real advantage is that it hits more glancing blows, damaging all the enemies in front of him at least a little. His job is not just to kill things, but to keep the attention of as many enemies on him alone as he can attract. (That's aggro.) Even if he does not land the killing blow on any one of these hobbies, he is enabling Jeets, Talbron and you to get on with it in safety.

When things get a bit too hot, he grabs his shield, drops to a blocking pose, and sends out a wave of Intimidate. Every enemy affected will now concentrate on him for the next six seconds, whether he hits them or not. Six seconds is plenty of time for Jeets (or even you) to take out one of these guys from behind.

At the same time Fred waits patiently for the ‘heal’ he knows is coming. He has good armor, and his shield reduces the damage though some of the blows get through. He also knows that the higher he gets in the game, the more often enemies will hit him. No, what he relies on is his robust health. He has lots of hit points and he trusts his healer to help out when his HP is too low. Just in case, he has several Cure potions in the event something is attracted to Cellimas and she has to defend herself.

Cellimas the Healer[edit]

Despite her role as healer, Cellimas did not start with healing anyone. Instead she managed to land two shots of Command on Hobgoblin Slayers, and those two sitting on the ground are looking pretty stupid. She knows that neutralizing some of the damage heading towards her fighters can be more effective than healing them afterwards. With her bit of crowd control done, she starts sending Cure spells at Fred. While he is her main focus, she also keeps an eye on the other red bars of the party. Sending a Cure to Jeets (who caught a couple of glancing blows) is as easy as pressing his party ‘F’ key then the spell hotkey. From her elevated position everyone is always in sight, and she need not bother with trying to actually target the spell on her recipient.

Talbron the Caster[edit]

Talbron tries a web but unfortunately the hobgoblins save against it, so he follows up with a couple of shots of Electric Loop. He is going for spells that affect more than one enemy, and still do half damage even if they save against them. Although he does not yet have Wall of Fire (a popular first-attack weapon of experienced Wizards and Sorcerers), Talbron still creates a lot of damage. As the levels get higher and the spell damage gets better, it's common for casters to have a higher kill count than the melee hackers you would expect to be leading the list.

And you, the Archer[edit]

You, meanwhile, loose off a series of arrows at one of the two hobgoblin clerics at the back. You aim at them partly because they have less armor and less health than the hobgoblin warriors, but also to get them to target their spells on you rather than on the front line. This is much more important than adding your meager arrow damage to Fred’s output. You have elven spell resistance, high ‘reflex’ and ‘fort’ saving throws, and (thanks to well chosen jewelry) adequate ‘will’ saves. Even if a spell does land, you are by yourself so no one else in your party will be affected, and if you are frightened or frozen, there is no scimitar-waving hobgoblin in front of you to take advantage of it.

You manage to take out one cleric, but it takes too long for the second one. You change to your twin swords, ready to run at the other. But at that moment one of the Slayers breaks away and charges for Talbron, presumably upset about that last lightning blast. The wizard runs, but not backwards. Instead he runs towards you, then stops and blocks. The hobgoblin stops in front of Telbron and prepares to slash at him. But the heal from Cellimas arrives almost before the first blow, and your attack on the hobgoblin causes it to change its target. By the time it has sorted out who to go for, it lies dead.

With Talbron safe again, you leap into the fray. Yes, literally jump over the heads of the front line. You do have high jump, remember? Your first priority is that last cleric, who has started casting spells on the other members of your party. Fortunately it falls quickly to your twin weapons and a well timed heal from Cellimas enables you to carry on. If that had not arrived you were going slip away from the fray for long enough to chug a few ‘pots’. (Yes, you always carry heal potions, even when there is a cleric in the party.)

You move on to the hobgoblin ‘Infiltrators’ lurking at the back. Thanks to your high spot you have a bead on them, and as they are primarily ranged enemies, you can handle them toe-to-toe where you would be struggling against a heavy hitting ‘Slayer’. You polish off those two, then return to help Jeets attack the backs of the crowd around Fred, now fast shrinking. Although you are not a Rogue, and miss their nice sneak attack bonus, everyone gets the flanking attack bonus for hitting an enemy from behind.

Victory![edit]

And then suddenly, there are no hobgoblins left. Yay!

Hopefully you noticed;

  • It is all about handling the aggro. "Who do we want those mobs to go after?"
  • Attack the right enemy not the nearest. "Who is the most dangerous, or the most vulnerable to my attack?" Commonly, target enemy mages first. They have weaker defenses but often have spells that can immediately cripple whole parties.
  • Archers and rogues can make melee attacks safely IF properly choreographed with the main fighter.
  • Protect your healer and your caster.
  • If in trouble, run towards your friends, not away from them. (But run away from the party when chased by Whirling Blades in The Shroud, part 4!)
  • Don't worry about who made the kill. A fighter is only as good as his back-up.
  • Class names don't matter. Having clear roles and fulfilling them properly does. In the case of Jeets, he added to damage when he could, fulfilling two roles, that of trap locator and backstabbing DPS.

Congratulations. Coordinated teamwork has defeated the baddies again. But remember, this was the simplest and most obvious of battles. Never be shy about saying, before you open that door, "This is my first time. How do we do this one?" It may still go wrong - but at least you will know why.

The Roles[edit]

Now the detail. This list describes the roles you can play, (i.e. what you can do). Although this is linked to your class and your race, (i.e. what you are) and some classes specialize in certain roles, there is a lot of overlap and duplication.

Tank[edit]

Just as the name suggests, you are a defensive fighting machine. Your goal is to be the first target for assaults on your group and to control the enemies' movement by attracting their Hate (more commonly known as Aggro). Tanks always have high hit points and either enough DPS to attract attention or significant skill in Intimidation. You may use two-handed weapons to get more glancing blows, or a shield to provide damage reduction.

Melee Damage[edit]

You are a killer, concentrating on attack rather than defense. You know that the quicker you kill something the fewer blows it can return. While having good Constitution and enough hit points to survive life in the front line, you prefer not to be the focus of attention for too long. Barbarians are the archetype of this type of build: nothing should scare opponents more than a large Barbarian charging towards them with a massive axe or two-handed sword. Rangers, Monks, and Rogues tend to be faster attackers and focus on fast attacks and on-hit effects rather than large, single hits. Paladins and Fighters can fit into either of these categories, but also have the option of wielding a shield and dealing significant damage with Vanguard enhancements, providing a balance between offense and defense.

Ranged Damage[edit]

This archetype deals damage from afar, usually with a bow, crossbow/repeating crossbow, or throwing weapons. Ranged damage is usually based on powerful critical hits, as the base damage of ranged weapons tends to be on the low side. There are many explicit situations where the ability to hit the enemy from a distance is valuable. The most obvious is in returning fire to ranged mobs standing out of reach, such as up on a cliff, but more useful is the ability to grab the 'aggro' of enemy casters or the boss from a distance. Clearly, don't do this if you do not have a good plan for how to deal with them afterwards! Ranged damage classes can be useful against enemy spellcasters as they can usually out-range most short and mid-range spells. Feats like Precise Shot can be very useful, as they allow ranged classes and builds to be on target with their arrows/bolts/throwing weapons, and hit targets hiding behind others.

Healer[edit]

Good healing is essential in many dungeons, and guarantees your character more invitations to groups than any other profession. You need to be able to keep track of the health of a dozen people while juggling multiple hotkeys, and stoicism helps, to enjoy playing what is essentially a support role. Adding capabilities like offensive casting and crowd control makes the role both more challenging and more rewarding. Most dedicated healers tend to be Clerics, but Favored Souls can heal perfectly well. Spellcasting Druids and Bards can also heal parties, although they tend to be more focused on damage and/or crowd control.

Buffer[edit]

This is another support role that can make all the difference. You not only prepare the party with defensive buffs before opening the door, but also enhance the DPS dealt with timely short-term buffs like haste. Bards have songs, which add a variety of useful effects for all situations. Note that Bards, Clerics, Druids, and Wizards have different buffs, while Rangers and Paladins have a small set of Cleric buffs. Path of Harmonious Balance Monks, Artificers, and Bards have buffs that can't be dispelled by enemies, although Monk buffs are tactical and of very short duration.

Caster[edit]

The word always implied before "caster" is "offensive". Your main job is blasting through large groups of enemies. You will often have certain specific buffs, like haste and rage, to assist the physical classes. There really isn't much of an explanation needed: see an enemy and blast it with magic. If it still lives, blast it again.

Trapsmith[edit]

This role finds secret doors, disarms traps and unlocks everything that can be unlocked. There are parts of certain dungeons where sending one shadowy figure around the back can avoid many minutes of hacking through enemies. But the best thieves are also assassins, creeping up on an enemy for a sneak attack. The sneak attack bonus keeps adding at every other level, so stay with Rogue if you want to become a back-stabbing assassin. However even one level of Rogue unlocks ‘Disable Device’ and 'Open Locks', and enough skill to be useful with the right skill points and equipment, so this is a common second profession. (Note, if taking a Rogue level, always make it the first one to maximise the initial skill points on character creation.) With the release of Update 11, the Artificer class can also disable traps, making it an interesting alternative choice for potential trapsmiths. However, it lacks the Rogue's large skill pool, making it a less appealing choice for a dip.

Specialists[edit]

Crowd Controller[edit]

This role handles mobs en masse through stopping them in their tracks, bewildering them, or even charming them to fight for your party. Casters often use Otto's Sphere of Dancing (that amusing disco ball lighting effect, complete with a backbeat) in a doorway, making it easy for the party to carve through enemies. The Otto's ball can be combined through the "Disco Inferno": Combining Wall of Fire with Otto's Sphere of Dancing to let enemies dance themselves to a fiery death.

Arcane casters can also use Charm Person spells against enemies to get them to fight amongst themselves to great effect. Be sure to know how to remove the charms afterwards so the party gets their "Conquest" experience bonuses. Hold Person, Hold Monster, and Hold Monster, Mass are usually the prime crowd control spells of arcane spellcasters.

Druids are excellent crowd controllers. Utilizing the Earthquake spell is key to this, as it knocks opponents down, preventing them from moving around or attacking. Combined with the Druid's water elemental Wild Shape, a Druid can heavily slow down enemies with Ice Storms while causing earthquakes underneath them.

Melee classes can bring down some crowd control in a limited and slower fashion through paralyzing, Flesh to Stone or similar effects on weapons. A fast Monk with paralyzing handwraps isn't bad in a pinch, although Monks are already very good with stunning their opponents.

Undead Slayer[edit]

You probably know enough about the undead from zombie movies. They show up in huge numbers. They aren't easily convinced to go away. They want your brain. Skeletons and wraiths aren't much better.

While many people see Clerics as healers, they are the masters in undead crowd control through annihilation of the target through the Turn Undead feat and related abilities that amp up destruction of more powerful undead such as vampires. Other divine classes such as Paladins and Favored Souls have similar abilities as well. The Paladin's Hunter of the Dead enhancements will certainly put the undead back where they belong.

Monks who choose the Shintao Monk enhancements also hurt undead very badly through their smiting and banishing attacks. Normally, undead are immune from being paralyzed, but a Monk's Jade Strike and Jade Tomb abilities can do it.

Beholder Slayer[edit]

Once you encounter a beholder, you'll remember it. Once its anti-magic cone strips you of your buffs, you're left vulnerable to instant death by Disintegrate or other death spells. Casters hit by the cone can't cast spells for 3 long seconds. And negative energy attacks go everywhere from the beholder, draining levels and abilities like holes in a water barrel.

The best way to attack them is to avoid their line-of-sight or stay out of their range. Toss in a Wall of Fire when they're looking the other way and be done with it. But two classes and one race have an advantage should a head-on attack become necessary. A Paladin with the Knight of the Chalice enhancements can't be level-drained and takes less damage from negative energies. A Monk with Shintao Monk enhancements can freeze beholders in a tomb of jade or banish them outright. The monk's saves, evasion and non-dispellable buffs make it an excellent anti-caster fighter. Warforged are best overall...they aren't affected by energy drain attacks at all.

Selecting members for a group[edit]

Clearly there are more possible roles than the number of places in a group. As a bare minimum you need enough DPS and some healing, but beyond that, it's a judgment call. Most roles can be combined, few quests need all of them, and different quests have different priorities.

The first consideration is deciding the quest you'll do. Prior experience in the quest is best, but even without it the game setting and the story usually offer clues. How does the dungeon relate to the characters' levels? Will it have traps, or locked doors? Will the quest have runes or levers that need Strength, Intelligence, or Wisdom to open? What kind of damage is the boss vulnerable against?

The second variable is your own play style. Will you be creeping carefully or zerging against the clock? Do you play a tank and healer pairing or rely on casters blasting away?

Simple questions like these suggest which character roles to look for when advertising for members in the Social panel, or alternatively, which quest your current group should be considering.

Combining roles[edit]

Many players find playing a pure specialist to be limiting, and so their characters have both a primary and secondary role. Common examples are given in the list above, but if a particular secondary activity lends itself to your play style and your character's best statistics, then try it out.

Combining roles adds fun and flexibility at low and mid levels, but becomes less useful in the higher levels of the game. Later on, going solo or in small groups becomes more difficult. Raids at end game levels favor the use of specialized characters leading to the so-called 'Min/Max" builds.

Special Techniques[edit]

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The wall[edit]

This technique consists of taking advantage of the fact that monsters cannot move through party members, but will keep trying to chase whoever has their aggro instead of attacking players closer at hand. There are two parts to this tactic: 1.) the player who gets aggro from the monster(s) and 2.) the players who physically prevent the monster(s) from chasing by getting in the way, either by blocking a door or simply surrounding a single monster. Once the person assigned to get aggro has done so sufficiently (either through intimidate, bluff, ranged damage or area spells), the blocking players can attack without taking damage themselves. However, the person who has aggro has to stand back from the blocking players (usually 15' or so) to prevent the monster from just attacking wildly and injuring the blocking players. If the monster has powerful ranged attacks (most notably Sor'jek in Stealer of Souls), the person assigned to get aggro must keep moving or risk being suddenly annihilated by a disintegrate or freezing sphere.

The doorway[edit]

Choke points (like doorways) can be very useful tactically. They can be used to break contact with monsters, thin out numbers of monsters as the pathfinding struggles to find a way through the door, and also funnel groups of monsters into a tight area for maximum use of area attacks. A few melee-oriented players can also block a door, preventing monsters from getting through it to physically weaker party members, who are then free to use their ranged attacks.

The pull[edit]

"Pulling" is simply a shorthand term for activating monsters by getting their attention somehow. However, the way you pull the monsters can have vastly different effects depending on how you accomplish it and what you do immediately afterward, making it a tactic in its own right. One thing to keep in mind is that groups of monsters in close proximity are often aggro-linked, meaning that if one is activated by aggro (that is, by damage or an offensive ability) all of them will be activated and pursue the person who initiated the "pull". However, aggro-linked monsters are not necessarily all activated if one of the monsters simply "sees" an enemy without taking damage or being affected by an offensive ability.

1. The ranged pull: this is what happens when a player with a ranged attack uses that attack on a monster at extreme range. It will then take that monster significant time to traverse the intervening distance, giving plenty of opportunity for party members to pepper it with ranged attacks or lead it into a trap or ambush. Some monsters cannot be pulled at range because they are part of a set fight and won't trigger (and cannot be damaged) until after they say something or do something specific or the party talks to them.

2. The visual pull: this means a character approaching the monster to within that monster's awareness or triggering radius. While it's necessary to get much closer to the monster in order to do a visual pull, this has the benefit that not every monster in a group will necessarily activate, so it can be used to split up groups. In conjunction with bluff, this is a very effective tactic.

3. The line-of-sight pull: rooms full of monsters with ranged attacks can be deadly to players. However, these same monsters won't chase a pulling character the way melee monsters will. So, it is necessary to break line-of-sight in order to get ranged monsters to chase the player, either by going through a doorway or around a corner. This can be extremely effective as a tactic if other characters are waiting just around the corner, as the ranged monsters will run straight into your melee in an effort to get line-of-sight on the pulling person.

4. Special visibility pull: using this tactic requires fairly intimate knowledge of a quest, as it's usually only effective when groups of very different monsters are together. One of the most common places to use this tactic is the Cursed Crypt where a vampire is surrounded by Silver Flame warriors. The vampire has a very good ability to see through stealth, while the Silver Flame are almost completely oblivious to stealthed players. So, a typical tactic is for a single sneaking player to approach the vampire while the rest of the party hides behind pillars at the other end of the hall. The vampire will spot the stealthed player and give chase, while the oblivious Silver Flame stand around doing nothing. Once the vampire reaches the other end of the hall, safely out of the awareness range of the Silver Flame, the rest of the party can descend and murder it in short order. It is also possible to use this tactic against monsters with True Seeing, by using the invisibility spell or potions.

The kite (and when not to use it)[edit]

The kite maneuver (also known as kiting) consists of getting a monster focused on you (getting its aggro), and then running away from it so that it can't hit you with its melee attacks. This can be a devastating maneuver if you make use of spells (blade barrier, acid rain, firewall, ice storm, etc.) or traps that produce constant area damage effects to whittle down the chasing monsters. However, it also has serious drawbacks, so you have to know when to use it in order for it to be effective. Some guidelines for kiting:

1. Some monsters simply cannot be kited effectively. Most monsters in the game fall into one of two attack patterns: "push" monsters and "pull" monsters. A "push" monster relies primarily on ranged attacks and will move directly away from someone attacking it in melee if that person has its aggro. (The usual sequence is for the monster to shoot a few arrows/spells, then hop away rapidly, then repeat.) A "pull" monster will always move directly toward the person who has its aggro. Some monsters will switch between these strategies on the fly, using a bow for a few attacks then switching to a melee weapon and closing. Kiting works ONLY on pull monsters and (slightly less well) on those who switch strategies. Do not try to kite push monsters, as it will have no useful effect and they will pepper you with ranged attacks the entire time you're attempting it.

2. If you are relying primarily on melee dps to bring monsters down, kiting is generally a bad idea. It is extremely difficult for melee DPS to effectively hit monsters that are chasing another player around. This strategy is used primarily when the idea is to keep smaller monsters occupied while the melee dps deals with some other, larger threat. When that happens, the other dps players won't be attacking the kited monsters at all.

3. Some monsters have "reach" (essentially, any monsters that are much larger than players) which means you have to be a fairly good distance away from them in order to kite them without taking damage. In narrow areas, it can be impossible to accomplish this, meaning all the would-be kiter is doing is preventing the rest of the party from dispatching these monsters, while taking massive amounts of damage themselves and possibly winding up frequently out of range/line-of-sight from the healer.

4. Kiting through traps can be extremely dangerous to the kiter, particularly on hard and elite difficulties where traps do massive amounts of damage. At a minimum, the kiter should have evasion with a very high reflex save. If the trap does elemental damage (electricity, fire, acid, sonic, cold), spells that provide elemental resistances can help.

5. Kiting through blade barriers requires special tactics, also. Other spells that do area damage such as firewall or acid cloud will damage foes repeatedly as long as they are in the area of effect. With a blade barrier, however, the foes actually have to pass through the line of the blades—it does nothing while the foes are inside the circle except once when the spell is initially cast. If you can line foes up so that they are moving along the line of the blades instead of back and forth through them, a blade barrier will do damage repeatedly in rapid succession. However, it is very difficult for anyone other than the person who cast the spell to do this properly because the line of damage doesn't match exactly with the visible blade barrier effect.

6. The more people in the party, the harder it is to kite effectively. Kiting is the most effective in solo-play, and decreases in effectiveness with each person you add to the party. With several other party members involved, it is usually best to stop kiting and rely on other strategies.

7. A good Jump skill and augmented run speed (with striding items in particular) is absolutely vital if you intend to kite and survive. While the jump skill doesn't actually increase your movement speed, it enables you to clear minor obstacles that might interfere with the kite. In general, when you're kiting, if you get hung up on terrain, you will very likely get surrounded and rapidly wind up dead. So the ability to move is very important.

A lot of casters and archers, particularly the ones that solo quests fairly often, are habitual kiters, attacking at range, drawing aggro onto themselves, then running around like a panicked chicken until everything is dead. While this generally works well when you're by yourself, it can be a very bad idea in a group quest, as such casters an archers also tend to forget about dungeon scaling and reach and suddenly take far more damage than they anticipated while simultaneously running away from the party. It is usually far better to drop your area damage spells on top of the melee dps and then either run in and stand on them while blocking (or even tumble around in a small circle) or run back and forth through the melee.

Build Examples[edit]

You should expect your first character or two to be 'learning experiences'. Only after you have a good feel for how fighting in groups works, and you have decided which roles you want to aim for, should you invest time in your first serious character build.

Straightforward builds;

More complicated builds;

Read more about Powergaming Groups for a more analytical approach on how to inflict the most damage on those mobs.