Dragon Flight by jrichard

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Dflight as a finisher
by jrichard. Originally posted Jun 22, 2004

Someone who knew i've been working on this build asked for some information on what i've found so far in playing her. I had started this already, so here's what is done so far. Probably a lot of typos and grammar errors here, sorry.


Dragon Flight

Every since LoD came out and I created my first assassin character then haphazardly assigned her skill points in an effort to try an get a feel for the skills of this class, I have been drawn to the teleporting kick called Dragon Flight. Alas, like most other PvM players I found the skill to be lacking in actual use. It was relegated to the status of one point wonder, a skill to be used situationally rather than as the main finish skill. Its drawbacks still remain numerous in the current patch.

* It carries a 1 second casting delay making it a very poor choice to be used by itself

* Although the skill description lists a pretty large damage bonus, due to the mechanics of the kick damage formula it gets outdone in terms of pure damage by both the Dragon Talon and Dragon Tail kick finishers

* The skill seems to include two animations, first a casting and then a kick animation following the teleport. I haven't actually dug into the game files to check this, it's just the way it seems to work to me. FCR and IAS don't seem to have a huge impact on these animations. This means the skill takes a relatively long time to use once it's started and it's easily interrupted. One of the worst places to try and use Dragon Flight is when surrounded by a group of monsters whom you do not control.

* It misses much more than the chance to hit listed on the Lying Character Screenâ„¢ would seem to indicate. Why? I'm not sure. My personal opinion is that this is but another instance of the desynch problems that still plague many skills in this game.


Why in the face of its drawbacks would anyone want to make this the main finish move of a build? Well, against that list of drawbacks it has one major asset that balances it out in my mind. It's just a flat out f'ing cool skill!!

Seriously, from a role playing perspective (this is supposed to be a role playing game after all) Dragon Flight fits better than any of the other finishers the view of the assassin as a hit and fade fighter. The killer who comes from out of nowhere, delivers devastating damage and disappears back into the darkness before her enemies can react.

Dragon Flight also appeals from a playing skill perspective. My time playing this character class has firmly implanted the idea that the assassin is the class requiring the most finesse and tactics to survive. Martial Arts assassins don't have the defense or life boosting skills of tanking characters. From the first time they play one most people either begin to improve their crowd control tactics or give up on them and label them lame. Most new assassin players I've talked to remark on the constant use of a large number of hotkeys. Necromancers are probably the only other class who will use as many, but they don't generally use all of them as often as the assassin. A Dragon Flight assassin will have to be very good with all of her skills in order to survive hell in 1.10. For that reason, I've seen a build incorporating this skill as being the next step in the development of my playing ability with this class. My goal with this assassin was to develop a build that relied almost totally on finesse. She has no really overpowered high damage skills and requires constant attention to her situation so she can control the battlefield completely.

If you play her, most times you'll find yourself having to charge up skills, decide what target would be best for you next dragon flight, keep an eye on whether your Cloak of Shadows is still up, be ready to Mind Blast anything that entered your battlezone after you last cast Cloak of Shadows, keep an eye on your merc and shadow's health, and make sure you have a Death Sentry or two lying near enough to help deal damage. All of that will be done simultaneously. This is not a build for those who like to namelock a target and just keep the mouse button held down until it's dead. A few warnings concerning this build are probably appropriate.



Warnings (or Look at me Cover My ***)

1. This is not by any means suggested as a good build for your first assassin. Quite the opposite actually. I suggest that most people start with a trapsin. It's a safer ranged build and gives you a chance to learn how to use the skills in the shadow tree with less pressure. Then move on to a martial arts assassin to learn and practice with the charge up skills. A Dragon Claw assassin using Claws of Thunder/Phoenix Strike/Blades of Ice is almost identical in skill selection as this one and would help to learn how to time and release charges.

2. If you are looking for the build doing the most raw damage or are into builds that will one hit kill anything in hell, save yourself the grief and stop reading this now. This build is meant to challenge your ability, not puff up your ego for all of your "l33t" friends on bnet.

3. For those who drink alcohol or partake of other drugs and have a tendency to play in a, shall we say, less than attentive state of mind, this build is pretty unforgiving of mistakes. Do what you will, but I would suggest that you at least not attempt this in hardcore. :)

4. Same warning as above for those of you who are like me and tend to play in the middle of the night running mainly on a lack of sleep and an overdose of caffeine.

5. This build is focused on dealing with crowds rather than single bosses. The focus I had while developing this assassin was on dealing with and controlling crowds. While I've had no unexpected difficulty in dealing with the act bosses, it's really not the strength of the build and can take some time and patience. I'll discuss the methods I used to kill them later.

6. This build needs adjusted in order to be played untwinked. I'll talk a little more on this when I discuss equipment. Initially I thought it would be a very poor choice for untwinked play. As I've gotten more used to the build and have seen the safety it provides, I've changed my mind. More on that later.

7. This is written with at least some experience with assassins in mind. I'm assuming you already know about charge-ups and finishers, what Burst of Speed does, how Death Sentry works, what Cloak of Shadows and Mind Blast do, and generally how Dflight itself works.



The Build (or Hmm, what are those skill thingies the game keeps giving me?)

It's probably well past time that I started talking more specifically about this build. In my first try at building this assassin, I thought that I could use Tiger Strike in conjunction with Dflight to devastate bosses. How wrong I was. That, in part, was what led me to writing the Kicking Basics document. I just didn't understand how this skill with its huge listed damage bonus could perform so badly compared to the other kick finishers. I'll refer you to that document for a little more on this. It's stickied at the top of this forum.

I still wanted to use the skill, however. I tried a few builds out with it. The first one died in act 2 normal. The second died in act1 nightmare. The third made it to act 4 nightmare and died. The fourth died in act 1 hell. After that, I gave up on the idea for awhile. I had actually not played D2 for a few months earlier this year when I happened upon a post by Elvish Legion at the Amazon Basin. He was asking about whether or not a Dflight based assassin could be viable. That got me thinking about this all over again. It actually got me back to playing D2 on a regular basis. I don't know whether to thank or curse him. :)

I started looking at using this skill from a different perspective. Rather than thinking of it as a damage dealer in itself as the other kick skills are, I began to see this skill as a delivery mechanism for chargeups. No more. I tried an assassin out with that in mind. I didn't care about her kick damage, just how much elemental damage she could deal. That didn't work out too well. I couldn't leech enough life to make it work with my kick damage being so low. I went back to a kicker setup focused more on damage to compensate for the lack of physical damage skills to leech life and mana back. Which finally brings me to the build I currently have.

20 PS
20 CoT
20 BoI
20 Dflight
1 into the normal support skills: Death Sentry, Cloak of Shadows, Mind Blast, Weapon Block, Shadow Master, Burst of Speed, Blade Fury, and Fade.
Any other points given to the Shadow Master.

Some may look at this build and think, what's so different about that? If you just moved the points in Dflight over into Dragon Claw, you'd have the standard PS/DC 'sin. That's completely true. I've found the standard build to work best. Using Dflight as the finisher is a choice in playstyle. The style with which you play a standard MA 'sin will get your Dflighter killed very quickly. The focus of this whole rant is not going to be on the skills or even the gear, which I'll list later, but rather on how to play this character.



Playing your Dflighter (or How to become a Control Freak)

Control is what playing this build is all about. To that end a few skills will be invaluable. Most who have played assassins for any length of time at all will already know these skills rock, but you may be surprised at how much more you appreciate them after you play a Dflighter.

First comes Cloak of Shadows. Don't leave town without it. Until I started playing Dflight builds, I never fully appreciated the effect the -enemy defense from this skill can have. Dflight misses quite a bit. When CoS is active, there is a very noticable reduction in the amount of misses. On top of that, there is the more recognized benefit of CoS, blinding monster to anything not standing immediately next to them. When this skill's timer runs out, you'll know it. Suddenly an easy fight will get tough. You'll be interrupted and miss enough to bring it to your attention.

Next comes Mind Blast. There are some monster types immune to cloak of shadows. They are not immune to the stun from Mind Blast. Also, the next skill I'll talk about is Blades of Ice. Mind Blast provides a means to stun those monsters who are immune to cold and can't be frozen by BoI. I use Mind Blast also as I approach a group for the first time. After I have my first set of charges, I rely on BoI to freeze my targets and allow me to get the next set, but initially I Mind Blast in order to get my charges in relative peace.

Blades of Ice comes next. I know many probably looked at the 20 points into BoI and thought, what a waste. Without getting into the debate over it, I will say that I think BoI does nice damage. It's damage isn't the reason it's maxed on this build, though. BoI is there for crowd control. When I Dflight into a group, it's the BoI charges that make it possible for me to charge back up and Dflight out of the group without being interrupted very often. Read that again. When I Dflight into a group. At the beginning of this I listed some problems with using Dflight. One of them was this:

* The skill seems to include two animations, first a casting and then a kick animation following the teleport. I haven't actually dug into the game files to check this, it's just the way it seems to work to me. FCR and IAS don't seem to have a huge impact on these animations. This means the skill takes a relatively long time to use once it's started and it's easily interrupted. One of the worst places to try and use Dragon Flight is when surrounded by a group of monsters whom you do not control.

This allows me to Dflight into a group and have control. Trying to just go in without either this or Mind Blast is suicide. Considering I play in Hardcore mode, that's not a good thing. The argument could be made for using PS's third charge for freeze time. I tried it after I went to CoT for a main damage skill, but found I preferred BoI still. BoI leaves a 'mat' of ice on the ground for a short time after you release it. Anything that steps on that mat can be frozen even if they were not in the area of effect for BoI when it was released. PS's chaos ice bolt charge also carries a bit of randomness with it. The bolt is sent out and freezes whatever it hits, but if a monster is not hit, there's no chance it will be frozen. Though BoI covers a far smaller area than PS, I found I liked BoI more. Your mileage may vary. One real big benefit of using PS would be the extra 19 skill points available to be spent. An untwinked version of this build would need to use it. One final thing, neither BoI's nor PS's freeze time is helped by extra cold damage sources such as small charms. To increase the freeze time of either, you need more points into the skill. To make up for that, their freeze times do increase nicely as you level the skills.


Finally comes the Shadow Master. The nice thing about having a shadow active, even a low-level shadow, with this build is what happens when you use Dflight. You end up with your 'sin, your merc and your shadow all standing on the same spot. That gives any monster not already incapacitated by your other crowd skills three targets to choose from. You get hit less. I say to always have a shadow out with this build. It fits right into this assassin concept from a role-playing point of view also.


When these skills are all used in conjunction with one another, you gain the benefit of having control over the entire battlefield.

I found something odd about my Dflight build as I moved into nightmare. I was in act 2 clearing out the tombs when it struck me just how many enemies were on my screen. Oddly enough, even though one of the problems with using Dflight is how easily it is interrupted, I generally find myself fighting incredibly large groups due to my teleporting from one end of the screen to the other with this build. I attract everything in the vicinity. Rarely does my life orb drop below 2/3 and I've yet to have it go below 1/3. I don't have a slow computer, yet as this assassin moved into hell I would have so many monsters on my screen that I would start seeing a lot of video lag. It actually got to be a situation where I would try and see how many I could drag into the fight at once. This build survived because she never stayed still for longer than it took to recharge and kept her crowd control skills active always. The most pleasant surprise I had while playing this 'sin has been just how safely she deals with a massive number of monsters.

I had originally planned on this assassin's main charge-up sequence to be: two strikes with BoI (three charges due to my playing with a claw/claw setup) followed by two charges of Phoenix Strike then released with Dflight. At the same time that I realized in nightmare just how often I face very large numbers of enemies, I realized that using PS's second charge was just not going to work out the farther I got through the game. Between the occasional lag and having to keep track of everything I mentioned earlier:

*If you play her, most times you'll find yourself having to charge up skills, decide what target would be best for you next dragon flight, keep an eye on whether your Cloak of Shadows is still up, be ready to Mind Blast anything that entered your battlezone after you last cast Cloak of Shadows, keep an eye on your merc and shadow's health, and make sure you have a Death Sentry or two lying near enough to help deal damage. All of that will be done simultaneously.

I was having a lot of trouble timing the second charge of PS. I normally time PS charges by feel. You get an idea of the pattern or rhythm you need to release the charge you want and that wasn't working well with this build. More often than not, I couldn't even go back to looking at the orbs to see what charge I had as my 'sin was obscured by being in the middle of a crowd. My shadow was also charging and releasing making it difficult to see which were her charges and which were mine as we were standing on top of each other. That's when I began using CoT instead. At the time I only had two hard points placed into CoT. I had 16 skill points saved up as I hadn't decided which way to go with this build next so decided to try CoT out for this build without giving it more points and if it worked I'd give my extra points to it. With only two points actually put into the skill the maxed synergy and +skills I was wearing made it perform beautifully. Once the extra skill points were placed into it, I never looked back. I think I would still recommend maxing PS first as it's damage is nice at lower levels and it's a faster attack than CoT when you don't have the +skills gear yet to bring BoS up to levels where CoT speed is maxed.

I think I've probably talked all around this final part, so now it's time to get to actually using Dflight. Here are the things I've found make it work well.

* Get your freeze charges first. That way if you need to Dflight out of a situation, you'll be able to freeze whatever your target for the Dflight is.

* Don't target monsters right next to the ones you charged up on. For some reason Dflight misses more often than not on them. Instead try to target something on the other side of the group. More or less, you need to just move around the edges of a group. Often I repeatedly just go from one side of my screen to the other. It's not about killing one monster and then moving on to the next, but rather about controlling and killing a whole group in relative safety.

* Try to always get your charges first. If you need to recast cloak of shadows, shadow master, death sentry, or mind blast try to do it between charging up and using Dflight. If the situation becomes too hot, back up and recast if you have to, then refresh your charges before Dflighting.

* When facing single monsters and Act bosses don't try using TS to get more damage. You're better off with the damage that CoT and BoI add on their first charge. Usually, I swing twice with CoT and once with BoI against bosses. That gets me beyond the casting delay with Dflight and adds a lot elemental damage to my attack. PS's meteor charge could also be used, but really the damage from that comes from stacking meteors. The casting delay with Dflight means you'll never stack very many meteors.

* If you have the +skills gear, you can use Dtalon to handle bosses. Seeing as how you'll be wearing gear pointed towards hight kick damage anyway, you could take advantage of that with Dtalon. Personally, I found it just as easy to use Dflight as I didn't have any of the crushing blow gear Taloners normally have.

* When facing act end bosses Dflight to their backside. These monsters are large enough that you can Dflight around them and force them to continually move to hit you. It may not be much, but it does give you a little more time when they are not attacking you to get your charges and Dflight behind them again. You're a shadow killer here, forget notions of face to face fighting. Hit from behind whenever you can. A target that dies from your claw in their back before they knew you were there is far better than one who had a chance to hit you. This applies to the crowds you face also. Target your Dflights to their backside. Make them turn around to come to you and as they do, target their new backside. :) If you want to fight fairly with honor and morals, build a paladin.



Equipment (or How not to be a Fashion Victim)

Once I finish playing this character and then run an untwinked version through the game, I'll probably redo this into more of a guide and expand the equipment section, but for right now I'm just gonna list what my 'sin is using and throw out some ideas for how to do her untwinked.

My final gear choices for this 'sin are exactly the same as I'm using for my LS/Dtailer. That actually has been an issue as I'm playing both at the same time and only have one Chains of Honor armor. I play single player mostly these days and I'm lucky as hell to have that one. I don't ever expect to come up with another ber rune for another one. That means I've had to mule that armor over each time I switch characters. A pain to be sure.

Helm: Nats helm. Will trade it for Crown of Ages shortly
Ammy: Mara's
Armor: Chains of Honor Archon plate
Claws: Dual 'tucs (one has an amn rune the other has an IO rune) with dual Shadow claws on switch
Gloves: IK set gloves
Belt: IK set belt
Boots: Shadow Dancers
Rings: RavenFrost and Manald Heal

I have a couple of shadow GCs and four MA GCs. The rest of my charms are all +life small charms. When I make this more into a guide I'll discuss other equipment and leveling equipment.

As I think of doing this character untwinked, the first thought I have is that she'll need more points available to her support skills. That means using PS's third charge for my freeze skill. Those points will need to be spent into BoS, WB, and Shadow master. With CM possibly needing a few depending on my chance to hit.

The nice part of doing this untwinked is that claw damage doesn't matter. I can shop +skills claws and do just fine. Just like doing any kicker untwinked. Hmm, this may take some thought and I might not really be able to talk much about it until I've given it a go.


Looking at what is coming up for this 'sin, I really only worry about two things. The hell ancients are one and baal is the other. I don't see any real problems ahead with anything else. Diablo isn't a real worry as far as I'm concerned. I've found that Dflighting a planting a boot in his butt when he tries to use his lightning breath or firestorm attacks work very well. Baal will be tough simply because I foresee a long fight. Way too many hitpoints and his mana steal attack is a real pain. The ancients? Well, they're the ancients. That's a tough one for any melee build

jrichard