Strikers: Assassins vs. Bruisers

alt textWhat playstyle do 4e strikers favor – assassin or bruiser?

Dungeon’s Master recently compared the avenger’s offensive strengths to all its peers, and found it… lacking, in Avenger – Worst Striker Ever.   Now while many people came rightly to the avenger’s defense, myself included, it got me thinking about the different ways a particular striker is best played.  Sometimes, a class’ greatness and strengths are more subtle, and a basic shift in your tactical approach changes everything.

It occurred to me how critical that difference in approach is for strikers, and I immediately made the connection to one of my favorite (and FREE!) video games, League of Legends (LoL). 

Imagine two full D&D parties battling it out in one large encounter area, complete with stealth, flanking, defense of key outposts and your home fortress, and spectactular “dailies” (ultimates) that can turn the tide of battle.  That’s League of Legends!  LoL’s striker-type champions are called assassins, bruisers, or carries. 

(A “carry” is simply an extremely high damage striker that can “carry” the offensive charge with a high number of kills for your team.  Since assassins and bruisers are also capable of doing so, and have a more direct translation to D&D class roles, assassins and bruisers are the focus of the article.)

Having played LoL for a year now, you get to learn the limits and strengths of each champion or hero you play.  The two styles of striker are especially interesting to me because they apply so well to the conversation about the Avenger in comparison to other strikers. 

Just like the assassin Master Yi is fragile but highly mobile and capable of great damage, so too is the assassin-style striker Avenger.  In LoL, you have to play assassins with extreme care because they are so fragile.  Like the Avenger, they’re usually lightly armored, have low defenses against other attacks, and their health or hit points aren’t very high.  However, the idea is that their excellent offense combined with usually good mobility or utility spells offset their weaknesses and makes them a threat you can’t ignore. 

What do the most effective assassins in League fo Legends do?  They wait, wait, and wait some more, and then, when everyone’s hurting on the enemy team, they rush in and tear everyone to shreds in a quite a bloodbath.  They don’t typically initiate.  Instead, they’re patient, despite the epic battle that has just been engaged, and then wait to pounce.

So too is the Avenger playstyle.  Their assassin-like ability is their Oath of Enmity, giving them pin-point single-target accuracy most striker classes can only dream about.  After the enemy is engaged, wait a round if you think it’s worth it, and then swoop in.  With the avenger’s built-in high mobility, often through teleportation, you are a master of positioning.  This almost guarantees you combat advantage through flanking if you’re patient and look for that perfect opening. 

The other striker I’m playing actively right now besides my avenger is my two-axe ranger, who is more of a bruiser-striker in playstyle.  He’s naturally tougher (Toughness feat built-in), but he’ll naturally miss more compared to the Avenger’s Oath of Enmity.  Accuracy always beats damage.  Why?  Because who cares if you deal bonus damage when you’re missing?  You have to hit, first and foremost, for any damage to even matter. 

Think about how many times you’ve sat there lamenting a terrible attack roll, whiffing when you really needed to hit with that daily or encounter power.  You have a lot less of these moments with the Avenger, at the very least against the most critical targets in the fight – the leaders and most dangerous foes, which are  the Avenger’s ideal targets.  Add in the tactical advantages Avenger’s Censure provides (such as bonus mobility or bonus damage), and this striker-assassin class really hits the mark.

Which are you favorite 4e striker classes and why?  Which ones would you call more bruiser in style, and which ones more assassin?

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge