~the Trickster Prince~
Class and Specialization
MindStalker: Cipher (Beguiler) + Rogue (Trickster)
Wood Elf: Resistance to Dexterity afflictions
Origin: Old Vailia
I prefer Beguiler since I'm more concerned with casting Control skills than with dishing out damage. Rogue on its own provides most of the damage needed and Arterial Strike (Crippling Strike upgrade) and then Killing Blow does most of the work damaging an opponent while the damage bonus from Trickster Sneak Attack (+20%, later Deathblows +50%) and Beguiler Soul Whip (+20%, +10% under Sneak Attack conditions) makes this unit's AA powerful enough on its own. The Rogue skill-tree exists primarily for its passives--'Persistent Distraction' is powerful in melee (-10 Deflection, +1 Engagement, no defense check) and the Trickster's class spells augment the Beguiler's power and flavor quiite nicely.
I am aware that Beguiler is an unpopular pick at the moment, but I will make the distinction that, compared to the other three classes, Beguiler is useful and powerful as a function of volume rather than strength.
Bear with me as I explain.
For this purpose, I'd like to make a comparison between Ascended and Beguiler. Unlike Ascendant, Soulblade and especially Psion, Beguiler benefits not just from a better Soul Whip (+50% although it is locked behind a Sneak Attack condition), but also from being able to frontload its spells whereas the others have their power backloaded. Unlike Ascendant which needs to build up its focus painstakingly and with a massive disadvantage, the relative DPS of a Beguiler is much more consistent and with about 10~ focus resotred on Hit per Hit at level 15-20, it's easy to get enough Focus per cast in order to cast high-level spells consistently. The only time when Ascended does take over would be during through the Ascended buff and even then not by much. They get the full Soul Whip bonus and a +3 to power level but the amount of time to get there is much slower unless when taking advantage of AoE attacks.
Trickster, on the other hand, is chosen both for the utility gained from their bonus spells and the offensive power of both the Rogue abilities and the bonus from Sneak Attack. With this last, the build gains at least (1 + 2.10)x damage to its Auto-attack from the collective benefit from Rogue's Sneak Attack + Deathblows (20% + 50% +x% from PL scaling), and the bonus from Biting Whip and the Bonus from Sneak Attack to Soul Whip (20% + 10%) not including any bonuses from items. Sadly, these bonuses only apply to auto-attacks and weapon-based attacks. I am unsure if the bonus from Soul Whip applies to the Rogue's Full attacks but it should not be too much of a problem considering the above par margin on damage these abilities gain simply from a combination of Sneak Attack and Dual Wield.
On the utility side, the build gains bonuses not just from its free spells but also a plethora of other utility skills from Rogue Cipher such as Persistent Distraction, Hammering Thoughts, Gouging Strike, Cipher Afflictions, etc. These range from the extremely useful Llengrath's Displacement, to the powerful but niche Ryngrim's Visage.
Some of the better alternatives to this build involve exchanging Trickster either with (1) Assassin or (2) Debonaire, the first to take advantage of any invisibility the build might obtain through its abilities while the latter is best paired with double Blunderbusses in order to take advantage of the party-unfriendly modal available to the Blunderbusses
The usual opener I'd suggest would be
(Secret Horrors) + (Phantom Foes -or- EyeStrike)
Blind is one of the most powerful afflictions in the game since it not only reduces a two defenses but reduces the enemy's max range and accuracy. Frightened does two things, the first is that it reduces the Will defense and lengthens the duration of Afflictions and similar status ailments. Since the Beguiler bonus works with Body and Mind Afflictions, Casting Secret Horrors first and then EyeStrike should net the Cipher a good bit of Focus for future casts.
When going melee, the following is recommended
(Llengrath's or Mirror Image) with Wael's Sceptre
+ (Borrowed Instinct)
Based on this, https://forums.obsidian.net/topic/104896-the-big-post-of-stacking-rules/ it should be possible to stack the above for a total of +30 Deflection and +30% Hit to Graze conversion from both abilities. If one's defenses are sufficiently high, Mirror Images would be a better pick clocking in at +50 Deflection
+ (Tactical Meld)
if Accuracy or Armor is insufficient.
Body Attunement alone is pretty useful even when ranged while Tactical Meld is useful for engagement.
+ (Ryngrim's Repulsive Visage)
+ (Persistent Distraction)
is a good way of getting free Disengagement Attacks for bonus damage if surrounded.
It should be noted that I get almost no damage skills, but a few could be useful. Amplified wave should be easy to cast consistently with the Beguiler bonus and barring that, casting the lower level spells like Ectopsychic Echo and Mind Blades should be easy. There are others but these, I think are the best.
Set 1: Rannig's Wrath + Tuotilo's Palm -or- The Best Defense
Set 2: Watershaper's Rod -or- (Fire-in-the-Hole + Hand Mortar) -or- (Wael's Sceptre + The Best Defense)
Set 3: Whispers of the Endless Paths
Armor: Honor Guard Breastplate -or- Caroc's Breastplate -or- Miscreant's Leathers
(1) Weapon swap is recommended when using the Trickster spells--which, incidentally, is probably the most annoying aspect of this setup. The melee weapons are the main source of DPS; Hand Mortar has AoE for Focus generation and AoE distraction; Wael's Sceptre grants +2 Illusions Power Level and 10% chance to become invisible on crit (backstabs); Current's rush has y% Crit guarantee ramp and z% Crush dmg on crit.
(2) The build can make for a very good off-tank since the Cipher spell 'Borrowed Instinct' (+20 ACC, +20 all defenses) and the Trickster access to Mirror Image (+30 DEF) and Llengrath's Displacement (+10 DEF +20 REF, 20% Hit to Graze) [these two spells don't stack] makes for a very durable off-tank.
(3) There's an interesting interaction between Wael and Current.Current makes it so that both Sceptres trigger their on-crit effects. Try to get Backstab from Rogue to make the most of the free invisibility. Otherwise replace Hand-Mortar with Eager Blade
(4) One important thing to note is that the Rogue afflictions will transfer using AoE weapons. This is where the double Blunderbusses come in. Using these Blunderbusses, you can transfer Gouging Strike to a large number of units so that they will suffer from AoE bleed. This usually helps clear out waves of enemies especially in PotD since Gouging Strike lasts until the end of battle.
(5) Caroc's Breastplate would be the best armor to use on most occasions but I prefer Honor Guard just for looks.
HGr: Heaven's Cacophony (+2 INT)
Amt: Bauble of the Fin (+1 INT, +1 CON, +3% Damage Aura)
Clk: Giftbearer's Cloth
Blt: Sash of Judgment (+10% Damage above 50% Health)
Bts: Footprints of Ahu Taka (+2 DEX)
Glv: Aegor's Swift Touch (+1 DEX, +5% Action Speed) -or- Hylea's Talons
Rn1: Chameleon's Touch (+1 INT, +1 PER)
Rn2: Entonia Signet Ring -or- RIng of Clenched Muscle (random afflictions and random inspirations on hit)
These Accessories focus on giving additional Hit damage and utility instead of direct stats. The rest focus on improving defenses or Damage.
This section has a tier-system to facilitate the creation of a list of recommendations for the build. Recommendations are ranked according to priority starting from a rank of (1) onwards with (1) being the highest priority. Cipher is marked as (C) while Rogue is marked as (R).
So a first priority skill from a Cipher will be indicated (C) while a second-priority skill from the same class would be indicated (C2).
(1) Eyestrike (C), Crippling Strike (R)
(2) Soul Shock (R)
(3) Penetrating Visions (C)
(4) Draining Whip (C), Two-Weapon Style (G)
(5) Phantom Foes (C)
(6) Blinding Strike (C)
(7) Secret Horrors (C), Gouging Strike (R)
(8) Hammering Thoughts (C)
(9) Recall Agony (C), Weapon and Shield Style (esp. when using "Tuotilo's Palm" or "The Best Defense" as shields) (G2)
(10) Body Attunement (C), Persistent Distraction (R), Riposte (R2)
(11) Withering Strike (R)
(12) Silent Scream (C)
(13) Ringleader (C), Deep Wounds (R)
(14) Borrowed Instinct (C)
(15) Tactical Meld (C)
(16) The Empty Soul (C), Toxic Strike (R)
(17) Amplified Wave (C)
(18) Improved Critical (R)
(19) Ancestor's Memory (C) Deathblows (R)
(20) Stasis Shell (C)
As can be seen from the distribution, there is an emphasis on getting important Crowd Control spells from the Cipher tree as opposed to the usual damage spells. Due to the benefits to resource-volume from Beguiler, Amplified Wave is sufficient in its role as main DPS source and combined with Sneak Attack and Deathblows by Rogue (+70% Sneak Attack damage to Spells) one would need little in the way of DPS in terms of spells. Feel free to take DPS spells along the way. Stats can always be re-specced so its no real burden on the build.
One thing to look out for is the fact that this build specializes in single-target damage. AoE Damage is best delivered through weapons since these benefit from the bonus ailments and conditions made possible by Rogue. Otherwise, the build still performs well as an AA build with the combined effect of Deathblows, Biting Whip, Persistent Distraction and Borrowed Instinct.
Take note that I don't take the lower level Charm spells. First, one can take them at lower levels then spec out of them upon reaching higher levels. Second, consider that Ringleader does most of the work of those spells only better and that you can opt out of any earlier build by paying the innkeep. Third, while those lower level spells are fun to spam and undoubtedly powerful (charm is powerful in general), one can easily do without them. There's the not-so-good reason that it would be a waste of a Charm spell if it stands in the way of your AoEs but by far the best reason is that there's already a higher level spell that does most of the lifting. Ringleader does for AoE what the others can only hope to achieve and with better range.