After playing BB4 for several hours, I'm sold on my Beguiler/Ghost Heart (Seer) Watcher. While the build certainly falls in the viable but not optimal category, it suits my character's backstory: a wandering neutral good type whose destiny is guided by spirits (often manifesting as wolves), and whose lack of enthusiasm and cosmopolitan skills are often overlooked for his grit, honesty, and kindness toward the downtrodden.
This isn't set in stone obviously, as release and subsequent upgrades will probably shift it. That being said, I'd appreciate any feedback - with an understanding some decisions are RP. I plan on taking this Watcher through Hard Mode/upscaling on critical path with story companions.
Seer (Beguiler/Ghost Heart)
Race: Pale Elf
Culture/Background: White that Wends/Mystic
Pet: Ghostly Wolf
Primary Active Skills: Alchemy, Stealth, a bit of Athletics (I may reverse the latter two).
Primary Passive Skills: Metaphysics, Insight, Survival
(Again, these stats are for RP purposes. Even though the character is a backliner, I don't want to dump RES because I feel surviving in the White that Wends would require a degree of resilience. I didn't mind dumping CON a bit, though, since my character's physical development was a bit stunted, stemming from undefinable, haunting visions that kept nights long and friends fair-weather.)
War Bow, Hunting Bow, Rod (Blast), Arquebus (for alpha strikes), maybe Crossbow for interrupts. These choices will largely depend on unique weapons, but I would like to stick to bows if possible.
This build combines ranged damage and afflictions along with an upgraded, disposable pet that can easily move through the battlefield (immune to disengagement attacks) to disrupt enemy spellcasters and archers/gunners or help the backline in an emergency.
Unfortunately, both Rangers and Ciphers are starved for ability points compared to other class combinations (no freebees beyond character creation), which can impede optimization. (Though you could also argue no point goes to waste like multi-class Fighter).
Beguiler's range bonus (20 percent) to Deception Powers couples well with a Seer and often allows faster, safer opportunities to cast wide afflictions on mid and backliners. Ideally, enemies should always be covered in afflications (other party members like a Blast Rogue or Druid will offer redundancy), which generate Focus when attacking or casting Deceptions. This character will always initiate combat from Stealth, negating Beguiler's attack and Focus generation penalties when target is ineligible for Sneak Attack.
Powers: Eyestrike, Whisper of Treason, Phantom Foes, Secret Horrors
Eyestrike being a third level affliction right out the door is nice and Whisper of Treason offers some useful tricks with Stealth. While its effect is weak, Phantom Foes casts quickly and can cover a wide area, often hitting backliners when directed at stragglers racing to the frontlines; and since Mental Binding has fallen from grace, it gets tossed out for a passive or Ranger ability. Secret Horrors is a solid Power, which disables active abilities and lowers CON and RES, which helps Eyestrike and physical attacks land along with increasing affliction durations across the board.
Passives: Beguiler, Biting Whip, Hammering Thoughts
Since there's not a large choice of Powers, I picked Biting Whip and Hammering Thoughts for extra ranged damage. I skipped the 10 percent duration bonus to afflictions (name escapes me atm) since I felt having an INT at 16 and a good Focus flow was enough.
A Seer Mystic summoning a fallen companion from beyond is appealing to me, and I never liked the Grieving Bond penalty, so Ghost Heart became my immediate choice. Calling the beast into Eora is quick and doesn't incur a recovery penalty, which lets the Seer immediately follow the ritual with Powers. Higher INT boosts the summon duration, extending the companion's use. Unfortunately, the skill has a short range, making timing an important factor in narrow encounters: before foes are bottlenecked but after they are engaged. (I try to time the summon into my Priest's rotation so the pet gets an inspiration while heading out.)
The ghostly companion has its own set of properties, which makes it different from its living counterparts. It functions as a spirit-type with its associated strengths and weaknesses (afaik its not possible to actually see these effects) and is immune to disengagement attacks, which allows it to effortlessly swap between enemies when needed and bypass the opposition's frontliners. Ghost Hearts cannot learn the skills Heal Pet and Revive Pet, though this may not be such a sacrifice considering their hefty Bond costs and ability investment. When the pet expires due to death or duration, the Seer will not be affected by Grieving Bond, which will keep his Powers and attacks accurate.
Side Note: Ghost Heart companions are handy at distracting, kiting, and blocking small side groups of enemies, and at one Bond point and short cast and recovery, can easily be summoned when necessary. A ghostly bear or antelope could make for a resilient (albeit temporary) tank.
Ghost Heart Abilities:
Bond: Wolf Companion, Takedown, Marked for the Hunt
I chose the wolf (named 'im Volkhavaar) for my companion for RP and extra damage - lions make a good secondary choice for their increased attack speed. Takedown disrupts enemy backliners and can be upgraded for extra PEN or a damage boost.
Marked for the Hunt deserves its own mention. Its baseline ability (Marked Prey) is far superior to Wounding Shot: the latter has been repeatedly nerfed, the Wounding effect doesn't generate Focus, and spending two ability points for a level one affliction or a selfish accuracy buff is a waste in a crunched build. Marked Prey and Marked for the Hunt never miss, cast fast, have no recovery, and last as long as the marked target; and Ciphers always appreciate more accuracy. Marked for the Hunt transfers the effect when the marked foe is killed, and combined with the Ghost pet's immunity to disengagement, allows the strange apparition to safely move to the next target - often messing up enemy pathing for a brief time. The ability's jump-on-death effect seems to have no limit, which helps cut down on Bond points in longer battles; however, it can vanish if its next target dies too fast.
Passives: Ghost Heart, Marksman, Merciless Companion, Vicious Companion
Marksman plus Marked Prey/Marked for the Hunt synergize, giving the Seer a +15 bonus to accuracy from over four meters away; and as mentioned earlier, Beguiler's ranged bonus to Deception powers lets him stay a touch back. The Companion passives are there to increase damage, add PEN, and apply a moderate Sneak Attack bonus, which will be triggered often.
Start the battle in Stealth with an Arquebus (modal on). If possible, position your frontliners in a way that can open a path for the pet.
Begin the frontline engagement/prep inspirations/shoot a long-range foe with your Arquebus to generate some Focus.
By using an Arquebus, recovery is at 0. Follow the shot with Marked for the Hunt on a ranged foe (no recovery), then summon your pet (also no recovery).
(Note: Marked for the Hunt breaks Stealth, which is why I shoot before using it. Casting Deceptions from Stealth can be useful, but recovery can significantly hinder the rotation.)
Have your pet attack or use Takedown on the Marked foe depending on the circumstance, then cast Phantom Foes on an enemy that gives the most coverage.
Follow this by swapping to a bow or rod, then work to cast Secret Horrors and Eyestrike. Follow Marked for the Hunt as it bounces through enemies and focus fire for the best effect. Continue casting Deceptions, attacking marked targets, and summoning when needed.
--Will add other thoughts and variations after waking up.
Thanks for reading.
Edited by Ophiuchus, 18 April 2018 - 09:23 PM.