4E Variation on Themes(by MwaO)

MwaO

Explorer
This handbook is an organizational theme handbook plus my viewpoint on the general effectiveness of themes. The idea is to direct players to themes that serve specific goals. I looked at each theme and placed them into the following five categories:
Defender:Either provide immediate action attacks that resemble marks in behavior or they have adjacent range attacks that apply status effects that complicate the monster's next turn.
Striker:Do extra damage or do consistently more damage
Leader:Enable, buff, or heal without using up your immediate actions
Controller:Apply control effects from a distance
Non-standard:Doesn't really fit any of the above categories

Link to Original Thread: This is a link to the original thread in the Wayback Time Machine if you want to access commentary.

I used the standardGold/Sky Blue/Dark Blue/Black/Purple/Red color scheme.

Powers that were available as either alternate Utility or Encounter powers I only took into consideration if there was some fantastic element about them. Usually, any given class is going to have some better choices unless they're at a minimum Sky Blue or Gold(see Iron Wolf Warrior encounter attack powers or Sidhe Lord's Utility 2)

How should you pick themes on this basis? There are three basic ways
If you want to enhance your general overall power, look at the themes rated Gold, Sky Blue, or possibly Dark Blue. Anything I've rated Gold or Sky Blue is likely going to be very useful, even if that's not your role.
If you want to enhance a particular role that your character does, look at the themes in that role. If you're a Defender who feels that they need to be a better Defender, pick a Defender theme. I'd recommend looking at anything Black or better. Be careful - if you're already really good at your role, you might want to consider something outside your role. If no one ever attacks a nearby ally, picking up a theme that relies on a nearby ally getting attacked isn't going to be Sky Blue even if I rated it such.
If you want to enhance your utility, look at the non-Standard themes - they often don't directly enhance a specific role, but rather give options, either in or out of combat.
Also, each theme lists whether or not weapon attacks are melee, close burst, or ranged, and whether or not the theme uses an implement.

I want to emphasize here - I think Color is generally more important than Role. A Sky Blue theme outside your role in many cases might make you more important to your party than a Dark Blue theme in your role.
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Defender Themes


  • Immediate Actions that punished an attacker for not attacking the theme's owner
  • and/or the theme's power had a significant melee range control, but no extra damage

Bloodsworn: Decent Encounter power for bloodied builds, decent option for 2nd wind builds(which is a bit in opposition to each other), but I think this compares very poorly for the most part against Ironwrought
Earth Forger
Very solid weapon close burst attack power, particularly with the level 5 feature. Decent level 10.
Elemental Initiate
Solid off-action melee weapon power, access to Ki Focus, new skill, and bonus to Will. Great for high-defense melee types. +1 Rain of Hammers Ki Focus gives out almost free daily minor action attack and does a bit of damage for dropping opponents - if you're not using it for a specific Ki Focus, this is gravy. Ghost Strike Ki Focus, a common item, is good, too - if you have CA against a melee opponent, you ignore Insubstantial!
Gloomwrought Emissary:
Attack power uses your weapon power and weakens a target, which is very nice. The rest of it isn't that great, but the Utility 6+the Attack power can give a build a lot of staying power.
Guardian:
Guardian's Counter is amazing, allowing a lot of flexibility. This can often do crazy damage as you swap in for the actual Defender, who then gets to trigger their mark and you get off a basic attack. Many melee characters will love this.
Knight Hospitaler:
Shield of Devotion can turn a dropped ally into a conscious one, scales, and provides a bonus to attack rolls. And it is an immediate action? And eventually, you can use this twice a combat? Awesome. Many non-Defenders will love this.
Melee-Magthere Champion
There's a lot to like here. Slow on OAs, focus fire disruption, and free action smack as a level 10. The utility 2 is a solid Leader effect which goes well with mass attackers - particularly as a stance. And the level 10 is in essence a Daily Attack power masquerading as a utility that can be triggered by Lurking Spider.
Misshapen
Dread Carapace is an awesome Daily Utility option assuming the DM doesn't decide to take 'up to' as potentially meaning 0. And the extra 1 square of forced movement for melee attacks is helpful, too. But the rest of Misshapen isn't especially all that great, particularly in the context of a grappling attack with a +2/4/6 attack that prevents Dread Carapace from working.
Sentinel Marshal:
Very strong encounter power, solid bonus to skills, level 10 ability is very situational. Kicks up to Sky Blue for Fighter hybrids who don't want to use Fighter powers, but rather the powers from the other class. Red for LFR as it is setting specific.
Trapsmith: Attack doesn't advance fast enough. Still, the possibility of proning or dazing as a reaction is useful.



Chevalier:
Nothing horrible wrong with it, Valiant Charge stacks with a Charge and bonuses to saves never hurt. Just doens't stand out. Also has some metagaming issues where not attacking a stunned foe or coup de grace are dishonorable. That won't stop a lot of players, but given the better choices, why pick Chevalier unless you want that fluff text? Sub-zero builds might be able to take advantage of the bonus to saves. Sentinel Marshal is nearly strictly better for many builds.
Gladiator(DS)
You're taking this because you specifically want to be a Gladiator Champion, an excellent Defender paragon path and Disrupting Advance is a good melee weapon power. No level 5/10 abilities is where it goes wrong as all Dark Sun themes do. LFR
Vigilante
A somewhat weaker version of Sentinel Marshal. The big disadvantage that it has is that it wastes a precious minor action to do something that doesn't even mark a target, but only on a hit - where most Fighter hybrids have obvious ways to mass-mark with either Kirre's Roar, Rain of Blows, and/or Come and Get It. It would be Purple, but it has the level 10+rather good utility powers. Minor action to try to save against an effect or a 1 time boost to a bad initiative check to get a bundle of decent effects.

Janissary
Relatively weak encounter power is the feature of the class - just do your standard charge package. Other stuff extremely situational.
Primal Guardian(DS)
A couple of decent power swaps and the melee weapon attack power is okay. Dark Sun = no 5/10 abiltiies. LFR
Bregan D'Aerhte

Close to worthless compared to any of the auto-CA themes. This is only Purple because some lockdown builds might be able to exploit Uncertain Loyalties. There's some value in the Utilities, but I wouldn't take it unless you're in love with the fluff.
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Striker Themes


  • do extra damage on a hit
  • have a reroll on an attack
  • involve skirmisher or lurker style-movement
  • and/or getting CA somehow


Firecrafter
Minor action shift, do damage with aura feature. Power bonus to attack after second winding. Weak Dark Blue.

Ghost of the Past
Double rolls for one attack, skill training, double roll on that skill training, benefit on an AP attack. All awesome. Oh, hey, and how about that utility 10 that no one should ever use as intended, but rather after the 1st combat to ensure an extra AP...

Infernal Prince
+1 to hit with Fire Attacks is easy to exploit and so is the damage. Limited to Fire, though, and that's what really makes it Dark Blue vs. Sky Blue. Attack power works with any attack to damage one opponent and apply some light control. Red for LFR.

Iron Wolf Warrior
A combination of very solid features, melee weapon attack, and amazing no action encounter power swaps.
Ironwrought
Powerful attack power that works with any melee weapon attack, then get a +1 power bonus until EoNT. And resist when bloodied? Wow. Only downside, if it could be called that, is that it doesn't give any non-combat benefits.
Mercenary
Takedown Strike is very solid, working against adjacent enemies as is the bonus to defenses when bloodied.

Outlaw
Very good with Charge and Shift 1 builds, as the target often can't then attack you the next round due to being dazed. This is a weak Dark Blue. You likely want Son of Alagondar over this from a pure mechanical standpoint.

Reaver
Good solid Theme with potential for distributed damage with its melee weapon attack power. Well, except for the BoVD issue in many campaigns, particularly LFR
Sarifal Feywarden(any fey race but Drow)
Sarifal's Blessing is a very powerful feature for nova attacks and/or close bursts via aura. This gets very strong Sky Blue for such builds.

Skulker of Vhaeraun
Drow-only and you need to do some poison optimization, but if you can pierce poison resist, say via MC'ing into Assassin, taking the feat Venom Hand Master and picking up a Spiderkissed Weapon or Mordant Weapon, you can do some serious damage with a nova. Only issue is that you might need to end up with a thrown weapon, such as Cahulaks in order to go Spiderkissed and do Twin Strike. Still, +12 damage per shot in your Nova round can leave a mark.
Sohei
Sohei Flurry is a minor action melee weapon attack. Other options aren't bad and some of the swaps are very solid.
Son of Alagondar
Strong Dark Blue theme - very solid features for a stealthy type with a touch of Leader thrown in - almost a strict upgrade over Outlaw in many respects.
Werebear/Werewolf/Wererat
This is almost all about the interaction between the level 10 feature and Claw Gloves. A nearly free +1d10 damage for CA is stupid awesome. The level 2 utility that allows encounter long regeneration + a little extra isn't bad either. Wererat is Purple if you're a Melee Striker, only Sky Blue if you started out Small in the first place or someone who makes implement-based attacks or uses light off-hand weapons or would like to be small-sized, so to ride a |Sentinel Pet. But Rat-Blooded gives a climb speed and that+defensive bonus is what I think makes it the best for those choices. The MBA is bad, because it is +3/6/9, but those are the numbers for when you attack an NAD, not AC. Not to mention, no magical benefits from weapon/implement choice. If you're medium-sized, speed is harder to come by, so that's why I would take Werewolf slightly over Werebear.
Wilder(DS)
The reason you're here is for the expanded crit range of implement-based Psychic Surge, Enhanced Psychic Surge the feat, or Resurgent Wilder and you intend to thoroughly optimize them. Otherwise, avoid - though that's not a choice in LFR


Cultist
Attack power is reasonably effective and works with any attack, though doesn't scale very well. Better if you can ensure two attack rolls or something similar. BoVD, so Red for LFR
Guttersnipe
Solid theme with some unusual elements. Running Slash gives some Skirmisher qualities with a melee weapon.

River Rat
Not completely horrible? Basically, you get a reliable 3w/4w/6w attack - but as your damage mod goes up, it can really hurt you if you miss. +2 to defenses when you grant CA is what gets the theme to black. Does some interesting things with multi-tap single target powers
Samurai
Iaijutsu good for avoiding box of doom. And if you're a high init build, 18-20 crits with melee weapon attacks on round 1 can be fantastic - think Avenger or Ranger here.
Spellscarred Harbinger
All about the Invisibilty per encounter...
Spy
Decent move and hide power for encounter option, very solid skills.
Stormraider Striker
Could be useful for a character who wants to charge an opponent, has boots that allow one to shift back a square, and then charge again. Boosts initiative and potentially damage if you're a very high initiative melee type, and easier access to flanking. Nothing great in the utility section though the Utility 6 is potentially decent.

Animal Master
Take Fey Beast Tamer

Dead Rat Deserter(human, half-elf, or halfling)
Might be useful in the right campaign that has a lot of exploration where being a rat lets you get away with a lot. Has a bite which is likely at a very poor to-hit roll given it is usually +4 in Paragon/+6 in Epic and targets AC of all things.
Demon Spawn
Essentially a kind of variable resistance and an upgrade to a melee attack that is best used by single target strikers. Unfriendly OA option could be useful in weird circumstances, but likely not.

Explorer
Could be useful in the right campaign, particularly ones that demand lots of Endurance checks for the group and timed travel.
Pack Outcast
With update, not worth it unless you have some oddball adjacent effects. Has a bite based on your primary weapon, but not explicitly defined as being in the same group as your melee weapon...

Uthgardt Barbarian
Thunder Stomp has some nice aspects if you want to bypass the soldier and go after the controller in the back where the soldier is too close and the controller farther than your charge speed away.
Wasteland Nomad(DS)
The weapon attack power is barely better than an at-will if you have CA. You could spend a feat to make it worth something, but why? Illegal for LFR.
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Leader Themes


  • Enabling allies with a bonus to hit, free attack, movement, or healing, on the owner of theme's turn
  • Enabling allies with a bonus to hit or save as an immediate or no action option.



Noble Adept(DS)
For a Dark Sun theme, still has a lot of kick to it due to the free psionic power point and ability to add either 1 or 1d4+1 to any roll. Similar to Harper Agent in many ways. LFR
Disgraced Noble(BoVD)
Effective setting up for MBA specialist. Bonus to saves doesn't hurt either. LFR
Halaster's Clone: The starting feature is flat out awful as it is basically fluff in most games. From levels 1-4 this is pure Red. Alter Time as the level 5 is really, really strong - it isn't Reorient the Axis, but it is reasonably close. If you're an initiative-based build(and with the level 10 feature, you ought to be), you have your group form up in a group, you go first and don't move anywhere - then they all move their speed. The U2 might have interesting applications, but the loss of a healing surge makes it extraordinarily expensive mechanically - not wanting to ever lose an action might compensate the player even if the PC loses out. Note that you lack specific Halaster information for LFR
Iliyanbruen Guardian
Very good mobility at the start of combats. Limited to Eladrin.
Neverwinter Noble
Good for taking the focus fire target of Team Monster and making them regret their choice. Solid level 5 feature and the level 10 is very campaign dependent.
Noble
Useful for starting up things. Level 5 feature is crazy good at 5th, but is almost worthless by Paragon.






Ordained Priest
Nothing horrible. Attack power choices are solid, one implement, one melee weapon, nothing to write home about though either.




Callidyrr Dragoon(human or halfling)
Just not very good at all unless you want to spend a feat on something it gives you.
Dune Trader(DS)
Has some similarities to Warlord with the power swaps and Quick Formation isn't a bad weapon attack power. You might like Sly Gambit enough to disrgard the lack of level 5/10 abilities. LFR
Chaosmade
Decent skills at 5th, but ranged non-implement encounter power is wacky, even with an eventual 2 uses per encounter. Ranged use = OAs, so unlikely that a melee character is really going to want this. Warp the World is a good utility 10.

Elemental Priest(DS)
Spirit of Athas is a very solid implement attack power against one enemy. Desperate enough for the Leader Paragon Path Rainbringer to give up your level 5/10 abilities? LFR
Seer
Purple here reflects just how situational Cast Fortune acts at the table. I've been at tables where no player wanted to have it cast on them, simply because they didn't like the metagamey feel. "A 1, huh, I jump 2 squares as part of my movement." If you can get your party to go along with you, much better, maybe even Dark Blue.
Templar(DS)
Decent implement attack power, some good power swaps(Fettering Glare, Imperious Gaze) LFR
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Controller Themes


  • Theme power has control or adds control to an existing power
  • Theme power makes it easier to land control or keep control working


Beguiler
This is a sky blue theme for many controllers. Slide a target outside your area of effect into it.
Blackstaff Apprentice
This is a strong Dark Blue, potentially a weak Sky Blue in the right party. Magic Missile as a power is useful for free and a minor action attack is strong. Extra cantrips are good. The level 10 Feature is also very good as you basically get Dispel Magic as an alternate encounter power to potentially use multiple times a combat. Wizard with spellbook only, so very restricted, though a Swordmage could spend a feat to get a spellbook and a feat to MC into Wizard and a feat to do a power swap. Useful for regular Wizards in particular. Note that some fluff aspects have been changed for LFR
Ghost of the Past
(Breaking the normal rule - more of a Striker theme by my definitions, but this is one of, if not the top-tier theme for Controllers...) Double rolls for one attack, skill training, double roll on that skill training, benefit on an AP attack. All awesome. Oh, hey, and how about that utility 10 that no one should ever use as intended, but rather after the 1st combat to ensure an extra AP...
Ooze Adept
Minor action control power, get to roll twice for a skill, and some decent acid resistance. Nothing spectacular, but solid.
Order Adept
Very strong Controller option - Argent Rain does some leveling, solid bonus to a defense, and access to Wizard utility powers. To be clear, Dragon 399 lets PCs select from legal Wizard utilities, not just 2nd level ones as Compendium says. If only it worked properly in OCB, it might compete for Sky Blue given some of the very powerful Wizard Utilities out there.
Primordial Adept
A bit of a damage booster and solid implement attack powers.
Sorcere Adept
Was gold, now just Dark Blue. The level 9 Daily is quite nasty - until you have a Stun power, though, this is just Purple

Infernal Slave
Hellfire touch seems not so great at first, but you can get resistance items that protect against fire/necrotic relatively easily. At which point, it is +damage and a relatively big slide. That 2nd part is where the value is. And it works with any attack. This could range from Blue to Sky Blue if you have powers that damage when entering a square or starting a turn in a particular square. Say Sorcerers with Flame Spiral. Still, be really careful with this theme - when the road ahead starts having road signs indicating TPK, this one pushes the gas pedal. BoVD, so Red for LFR.
Moteborn
Flame Zephyr is basically a Fire version of Freezing Burst that doesn't use an implement, so no bonus to damage. On the other hand, it is a damage boost that moves around reasonably quickly. This could easily be Purple in a campaign where the expectation is more than 3 combats a day.
Vile Scholar
Dark Speech is solid implement controller power. Level 5 option doesn't make a lot of sense, but assuming it is just +2 power bonus to knowledge checks, that's quite a good skill booster. BoVD, so Red for LFR.
Wizard's Apprentice
Implement-based Color Orb is black. The level 5 ability is crazy good at 5th, almost worthless at Paragon. Order Adept, due to its +1 to Will and +4 to Arcana instead of +3, is almost strictly superior to Wizard's Apprentice once you hit Paragon.
Windlord
Big slide via weapon attack power with lots of potential movement for you.

Athasian Minstrel(DS)
Decent weapon attack power with some control, but that's all it really gets. Power swaps might not be bad for certain classes, such as Avengers. LFR
Cormyrian Battle Mage
Not horrible if you're not a Staff Wizard or Sorcerer. Still though, not a strong path - no base attack power, just a utility that competes with Staff Expertise.
Occultist
Just plain weird. The standard action is a very weak power that might still be poor if the OA part triggered as part of the standard. The level 2 utility is the kind that's only good in games where you're not being challenged anyway. The skills and binding elements aren't horrible?
Renegade Red Wizard
I think this is one of the themes that seems better than it actually is. You lose your 2nd school of magic, the 1st level ability is marginal - how often do Mages become Hidden, particularly at 1st level, and the 10th level ability is very situational and campaign dependent. No base attack power. Now there is that -2 to first save, but if you want to penalize saves, why aren't you an Orb of Imposition Arcanist? Arcanist + Beguiler should be much better.
Veiled Alliance(DS)
Decent implement attack power, but as usual, nothing else due to being Dark Sun. LFR
Watershaper
Doesn't use implement for attack power, so this makes the attack power very lackluster
Widow of Arach-Tinilith
Ridiculous restrictions. And for what? This one isn't particularly good, just some poor quality stuff. There might be some way to take advantage of the immobilize/slow feature of the spiderling. Or put your familiar into active mode as far away as possible for the +1 to all defenses and hope it doesn't die in an area attack.




 
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MwaO

Explorer
Non-Standard Themes



  • are extremely difficult to place
  • have situational value
  • and/or value is mostly out of combat

Devil's Pawn
Hellfire and Brimstone is a very strong minor action do a little damage debuff power, particularly for melee types that use close burst powers. For them, it can easily be Sky Blue
Escaped Thrall: Would be almost strictly worse than Noble Adept. If you have access to Noble Adept, this drops to Purple
Fey Beast Tamer
Companion allows either CA or blocking, depending on how you want to use it. Even a damage boost, too. Very solid.
Harper Agent

+1d6 to a roll or reroll a failed save? Pretty good, but nothing pushing it to Sky Blue, particularly as it only happens once per encounter.
Purple Dragon

Decent stance. The alignment prereq is restrictive. Works really well if you don't use stances, but do use MBAs a lot. Particularly charge happy builds that want to bounce back one square after a charge without using up their feet slot.
Sensate

Has very strong toughness and skill features. Missing the encounter power is why it lacks a Sky Blue rating. Well except for Breathers for whom it is almost Gold, particularly if their party either lacks a good leader or you personally can't consistently expect a good Leader to show up, such as LFR. Good to look for options that involve taking small amounts of damage in exchange for a big payoff. Such as Ravenous Blessing.
Sidhe Lord

Sidhe Lord's rating is all about the Utility 2, having a crazy good Action Point capability(ex: Flame of Hope, Warchanter), and hopefully being able to use more than one action point in a combat. Have that and a willing party, and it is arguably Gold.
Underdark Outcast: This seems to be a relatively easy to trigger strong encounter power. Move, minor, do your thing. Only trick is in a confined space or combat scenario. If you can consistently get space, it goes up to Sky Blue.
Bregan D'Aerthe
Very useful in Heroic for ranged attackers. Starts to lose value in Paragon where more things can fly and there's a larger expectation that PCs might be able to fly. Once the Brooms of Flying appear? Not so good. Drow-only
Cipher
Interesting theme. In some ways, this is an ideal theme for someone who wants to lose(by just a touch) initative. On the other hand, the theme doesn't really give much past the level 1 and you don't get an encounter. Could be extremely interesting for the right Battlemind builds - move Cha+3, move speed again or move speed then pull Cha and mark before the 1st opponent has time to go.
Elderboy
Really nice level 1 feature, even if it isn't an attack - good for super-high damage striker builds who expect to get crushed. Shift Blame is awesome for Knights - interrupt to force the opponent to attack someone else, then OA them to push them away from their target. Beg Lolth's Favor is very good, also.

Escaped Slave
A bit corner case of theme as you need a good Bluff score to even be here, but the feature is solid, the level 5 can be very good, both potentially negating an attack and delivering damage. If you're going for a build that gets free action attacks on a successful Bluff check for CA, this is Sky Blue. Free action attack limits is why it isn't higher.
Fate Dancer
Cards are decent and having 2 is better. Nothing broken though and difficult at tables without Fate Cards
Masked Lord: Free magic armor and a small item bonus to saves. Fluff option for the level 5, which might be valuable or not valuable at all depending on campaign. Not bad at all, but there are likely better options to pick from. Must have campaign documentation for LFR

Scholar
Nothing wrong here, lots of useful out of combat options. Need to be careful with the encounter attack power, though.
Seeker of Illefarn(eladrin, elf, or half-elf)
The reroll on a 1 is actually very solid(note post 17 where I break down how this really works), almost the benefit of a +1 to hit for all your attacks until it triggers for the encounter. +2 to all defenses for 1st round and no surprise? That's very good as well. The lack of an actual encounter power of any kind is what prevents it from being Dark Blue.
Tuathan
Bonus to death saves, ability to remove concealment/cover at the cost of 2nd Wind, and Heroic Recovery aren't horrible. It might even be better than that for a sub-zero build, but Chevalier/Hordelands Nomad are competitive there even for those builds. The thing that saves it from Purple death? The level 2 and to a lesser extent the level 10 utilities. I'd really only go here if you expect to use the utilities and/or are a sub-zero build.

Xaositect
The features aren't that good and the encounter is likely worthless unless you can apply save penalties. Probably ought to be Purple, but...that said, the level 6 and 10 utilties are fantastic.
Yakuza
Very strong, very situational theme. Needing to reliably bloody an enemy while having a strong intimidate while having your DM agree on what the definition of 'Surrender' means is where this theme goes south. Good for Cha-types who want to make OAs and have CA a lot.



Alchemist

Alchemist doesn't really have enough alchemical item support to be better than Purple
Black-Hearted Knave

Bluff features are solid - a Bluff Specialist can take advantage of the features. Attack at least is a 2w. Not horrible.
Brazen Ambassador

Very DM dependent - if your DM never throws at-level creatures at you, well, because you're optimized, then the encounter power doesn't do anything. And it is usually difficult to tell the actual creature level in a combat unless it shifted tier. The level 5 capability is campaign specific. And the level 10 makes the encounter power more consistent. Blazing Reprisal, the utility 10, is decent, and so is Cinderspeech utility 2. Maybe worth a look if you can expect your DM to send at-level creatures who only use melee or ranged attacks or you're in a very heavy social game and have a good arcana score, but poor social skills.
Courtier

Powerhouse skill monkey, but probably not all that crazy useful in most games unless it is too useful. Ultimately, Spy is probably better at doing what you'd want to do with it, assuming you had no intent to violate Wheaton's Law. Then it is great until your DM gets a clue and kicks you out of your group or makes all the encounters Courtier proof. Again, Spy better once all is said and done.
Deep Delver: We're here for the level 10 power or if you want to be the world's best at the skill of Dungeoneering.

Haunted Blade
We're here for the level 10 feature. Good if you want to dump Dex, have a good Cha, and you're not a Tiefling...before that a pile of Red
Heir of Delzoun(dwarf)
Okay features. Resist to poison, extra healing surge. Nothing special and more importantly, boring.
Hordelands Nomad

Might be useful for a Nature character who wants to make Arcana checks. Bonus to saves doesn't hurt, particularly for sub-zero builds.
House Priestess

Ridiculously overspecific prerequisites. The level 10 is very solid and Devious Strike is good for setting up a Nova. But needing to be a divine drow, let alone a female divine drow means even the Drizz't wannabes aren't taking this theme. If you're into playing female divine drows with strong fluff text that you might worship Lolth, it could be Dark BlueInquisitive
Very DM dependent on ultimate effect. And the main time that Perception/Intuition tend to be useful is on passive checks, which usually don't need a double roll. Some builds, such as Elves who roll Perception for init may benefit, however.
Mariner

Very ship specific to the point of silliness. The level 5 feature isn't horrible. The level 6 is decent. A theme waiting for a re-write.
Oghma's Faithful

I think Scholar is almost strictly better than this choice from a pure playability standpoint. That said, not horrible out of combat.
Oracle of the Evil Eye

Mainly about the Darkvision for characters that already have Low-Light. Urge of Destiny is not horrible if you know you're going to be with a multi-attacker. Gaze of the Evil Eye might not be completely horrible for an aura-based Defender.
Secret Apostate

Nothing particularly interesting here. Some weird situational benefits are what make it not red.
Scion of Shadow

Mainly that you can potentially control your healing surge value - an extra +4 never hurts, particularly if you're a Shade. Blindsight as a Daily for 2 rounds isn't strictly useless either.
Student of Evard

Better than it seems. Take Shadow powers and make sure to have resist Necrotic for your upgrade an attack against an adjacent foe and it is decent. Still Purple though.
Treasure Hunter: Really? Treasure Sense? Stick & Move is a good set up utility for a Charge+Charge attack, though. And Pay Attention is a very strong leader power if you don't have a Warlord in the party.

Underdark Envoy: Insidious Commentary allows a little extra damage with a bad attack roll and no scaling. Practiced Herald is a relatively solid leader power if you have a party of 4-6, though.
Unseelie Agent
Useful at levels where you don't yet have a weapon of that level.
Wild Hunt Rider

Just what I wanted. No need to worry about Partial Concealment. As if that shows up a lot...
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Themes for Everyone

These are the themes that are so strong or useful, that you should consider them either because they're that good or because you have elements that might be easy to optimize. Every Half-Elf or Fey Warchanter 16+ should be looking at Sidhe Lord's utility 2 and drooling over it as an example. Every Fire Blaster Wizard who uses Fire should consider Infernal Prince. Etc...

Ghost of the Past
Double rolls for one attack, skill training, double roll on that skill training, benefit on an AP attack. All awesome. Oh, hey, and how about that utility 10 that no one should ever use as intended, but rather after the 1st combat to ensure an extra AP...this is perhaps the best, "I don't know what theme I want, but I want it to be useful" theme out there.

Elemental Initiate
Solid off-action melee weapon power is great for Strikers who expect to be attacked anyway.
Guardian:
Guardian's Counter is amazing, allowing a lot of flexibility. This can often do crazy damage as you swap in for the actual Defender, who then gets to trigger their mark and you get off a basic attack. Many melee characters will love this.
Knight Hospitaler:
Shield of Devotion can turn a dropped ally into a conscious one, scales, and provides a bonus to attack rolls. And it is an immediate action? And eventually, you can use this twice a combat? Awesome. Many non-Defenders will love this.
Sentinel Marshal:
Fighter hybrids who want to use the powers of their other class, this is the theme for you.
Halaster's Clone: If you're a Striker concerned about killing your party, the Utility 2 ability to completely ignore Dominate as an interrupt is potentially really valuable. Ditto if you're the kind of player who absolutely hates doing nothing. That Utility is costing you a surge, so if you're the kind of Striker who regularly gets pounded on and has surge issues to begin with, it might not be a good idea. +4 to Initiative is also very good in any case.
Infernal Prince
+1 to hit with Fire Attacks is easy to exploit and so is the damage. Limited to Fire, though, and that's what really makes it Dark Blue vs. Sky Blue. Attack power works with any attack to damage one opponent and apply some light control.
Iron Wolf Warrior
A combination of very solid features, melee weapon attack, and amazing no action encounter power swaps. Good for any melee character.
Ironwrought
Powerful attack power that works with any melee weapon attack, then get a +1 power bonus until EoNT makes it easy for many Defenders and Leaders to land that extra-special attack.
Sarifal Feywarden(any fey race but Drow)
Sarifal's Blessing is a very powerful feature for nova attacks and/or close bursts via aura. Particularly when you get to Paragon or Epic, this can swamp more typical 'Vulnerability 5' options.
Sohei
Sohei Flurry is a minor action melee weapon attack. Other options aren't bad and some of the swaps are very solid. Any melee weapon user should consider this. Dead is the ultimate control.
Wilder(DS)
The reason you're here is for the expanded crit range of implement-based Psychic Surge, Enhanced Psychic Surge the feat, or Resurgent Wilder and you intend to thoroughly optimize them. Otherwise, avoid - though that's not a choice in LFR
Noble Adept(DS)
For a Dark Sun theme, still has a lot of kick to it due to the free psionic power point and ability to add either 1 or 1d4+1 to any roll. Similar to Harper Agent in many ways. LFR
Iliyanbruen Guardian
Very good mobility at the start of combats. Limited to Eladrin. Good for those wanting to bring someone along with them - the Striker who'd like his Defender nearby him as an example.
Order Adept
Very strong Controller option - Argent Rain does some leveling, solid bonus to a defense, and access to Wizard utility powers. To be clear, Dragon 399 lets PCs select from legal Wizard utilities, not just 2nd level ones as Compendium says. If only it worked properly in OCB, it might compete for Sky Blue given some of the very powerful Wizard Utilities out there. Shield, Illusory Wall, etc...are crazy good utility powers for all kinds of characters.
Bregan D'aerthe
Very useful in Heroic for ranged attackers. Starts to lose value in Paragon where more things can fly and there's a larger expectation that PCs might be able to fly. Once the Brooms of Flying appear? Not so good. Drow-only.
Devil's Pawn
Hellfire and Brimstone is a very strong minor action do a little damage auto-debuff power, particularly for melee types that use close burst powers.
Fey Beast Tamer
Companion allows either CA or blocking, depending on how you want to use it. Even a damage boost, too. Very solid.
Purple Dragon
Decent stance. The alignment prereq is restrictive. Works really well if you don't use stances, but do use MBAs a lot, which is many of the Essential classes or classes exploiting a particular at-will which can be counted as an MBA: Righteous Brand with Power of Skill, Eldritch Strike, etc...
Sidhe Lord
Sidhe Lord's rating is all about the Utility 2, having a crazy good Action Point capability(ex: Flame of Hope, Warchanter), and hopefully being able to use more than one action point in a combat. Have that and a willing party, and it is arguably Gold.
Underdark Outcast

If you think you can get space away from your allies, particularly anyone who likes multi-attacking and/or drawing attention to themselves, the encounter power is awesome, kicking this up to Sky Blue
 
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MwaO

Explorer
Slightly upped the rating for Devil's Pawn in certain scenarios - if you engage targets to be adjacent a lot, especially if you establish burst formation, it is by itself kind of a catch-22. Stay in burst formation and have a -2 to hit/defenses. Or take an OA to get out of there. Might be one of the best lockdown Defender themes in retrospect.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
LOL one I have liked for power swaps (Templar)
and the other because it had a very reflavorable element Wild Hunt Rider are ... purple
 

MwaO

Explorer
LOL one I have liked for power swaps (Templar)
and the other because it had a very reflavorable element Wild Hunt Rider are ... purple
Yup, because they're not particularly mechanically strong compared to other themes even if they themselves are better than nothing.

Templar's power swaps are solid, but they're not extraordinary - they don't really scale. And Templar gives nothing past the decent encounter option if you don't take them. Not even an implement option for use with the implement powers. All the modern ones give some sort of 1st/5th/10th option for free on top of the encounter power.

Wild Hunt doesn't even give an encounter attack power for free, its 1st/5th level options are corner-case. The 10th level option is okay, but not great. And the power swaps are mostly bad.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Yup, because they're not particularly mechanically strong compared to other themes even if they themselves are better than nothing.

Templar's power swaps are solid, but they're not extraordinary - they don't really scale. And Templar gives nothing past the decent encounter option if you don't take them. Not even an implement option for use with the implement powers. All the modern ones give some sort of 1st/5th/10th option for free on top of the encounter power.

Wild Hunt doesn't even give an encounter attack power for free, its 1st/5th level options are corner-case. The 10th level option is okay, but not great. And the power swaps are mostly bad.
Oh I do not doubt you. I have found in other arenas of character design I find I rarely ever pick anything that is purple, but themes seem to be me looking for something else.

AND

i do wonder about what explicitly can be improved on the red ones of any stripe though...
that is usually what goes through my mind when I read the charop analysis of anything.
 

MwaO

Explorer
i do wonder about what explicitly can be improved on the red ones of any stripe though...
that is usually what goes through my mind when I read the charop analysis of anything.
The red ones are mostly red because they don't even hand out a free encounter attack power, but rather give some benefit of really dubious value. Wild Hunt Rider almost landed itself there, but the benefits are only mostly dubious.

I'd also point out Purple, in CharOp terms, doesn't necessarily mean strictly worse than Black. It means it likely is worse than Black, but there may be some corner-case build where it isn't. And in some instances, maybe even really strong. So Templar falls there in part because most builds won't find it that useful, but some will like it a lot - say an Artificer or Sorcerer not enthralled with the typical choices and a Paladin might really love it if they exist in a world where Templars do too.
 
The red ones are mostly red because they don't even hand out a free encounter attack power, but rather give some benefit of really dubious value. Wild Hunt Rider almost landed itself there, but the benefits are only mostly dubious.

I'd also point out Purple, in CharOp terms, doesn't necessarily mean strictly worse than Black. It means it likely is worse than Black, but there may be some corner-case build where it isn't. And in some instances, maybe even really strong. So Templar falls there in part because most builds won't find it that useful, but some will like it a lot - say an Artificer or Sorcerer not enthralled with the typical choices and a Paladin might really love it if they exist in a world where Templars do too.
Right, there's lots of Purple stuff that is perfectly usable. You need to be the right build, or maybe in some cases they are just slightly less good than a lot of good choices, but if you already have OTHER choices that cover those bases, then a purple element may make sense just to have a different option. Often the mix of options is as important as the strength of one specific one. Even if you could just pick all blue and sky blue stuff you might find that you'd be better off trading one of those for something 'inferior' just so you can be more adaptable, etc. Usually the red options are red because they're just pathetic and pretty much hopeless, but even those aren't always so bad in every case. Often they are things you CAN use, and might even pick up with the idea of retraining them soon or swapping them out, but they will do for now.
 
Wanted to say thanks for this guide. I've been using it to help with some builds for a few PCs. Organizing it by Role is a great help!

Anyway, I'm wondering about Alchemist. The character concept for the Wizard in my campaign lent itself to this. I see it's pretty low, but I'd classify as more "GM dependent." The options for alchemical items seem numerous (though dependent on the GM). I'd think it would rate at least a black. Thoughts?


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MwaO

Explorer
Anyway, I'm wondering about Alchemist. The character concept for the Wizard in my campaign lent itself to this. I see it's pretty low, but I'd classify as more "GM dependent." The options for alchemical items seem numerous (though dependent on the GM). I'd think it would rate at least a black. Thoughts?
Alchemical items have a lot of problems because they don't scale properly and in multiple ways. And if you don't take an attack item, then you don't have a free attack granted to you by your theme.

Here are the basic problems, even for the solid options:
Unless the item is in hand, it is a minor action to draw it out. Obvious ways around this that are good even and in themselves.

The attack bonus is at best level+5 once you get the +2 to hit. Except level+5 isn't your level. It is the level of the item+5. Which can be up to 4 lower than yours.

Damage almost never scales properly. Adding +1d6/5 levels is basically meaningless - either you kill the minions with the item or you don't.

Items that are good independent of level are eventually of negligible cost. Sweet Water is 20 gp. When you get 500 gp per encounter, who cares? Suppression Crystals that cost 40 gp when you make 5000 gold per encounter? Oil of Etherealness is an exception to this, but waiting until 20th level?

Giggle Dust & Pacification Dust are both strong for what they are, but one's Dungeon Magazine and the other is a Rare. And eventually, a Wizard's encounter options are likely stronger than either of them. Simply because of what Enlarge Spell feat means...
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Alchemical items have a lot of problems because they don't scale properly and in multiple ways. And if you don't take an attack item, then you don't have a free attack granted to you by your theme.

Here are the basic problems, even for the solid options:
Unless the item is in hand, it is a minor action to draw it out. Obvious ways around this that are good even and in themselves.

The attack bonus is at best level+5 once you get the +2 to hit. Except level+5 isn't your level. It is the level of the item+5. Which can be up to 4 lower than yours.

Damage almost never scales properly. Adding +1d6/5 levels is basically meaningless - either you kill the minions with the item or you don't.

Items that are good independent of level are eventually of negligible cost. Sweet Water is 20 gp. When you get 500 gp per encounter, who cares? Suppression Crystals that cost 40 gp when you make 5000 gold per encounter? Oil of Etherealness is an exception to this, but waiting until 20th level?

Giggle Dust & Pacification Dust are both strong for what they are, but one's Dungeon Magazine and the other is a Rare. And eventually, a Wizard's encounter options are likely stronger than either of them. Simply because of what Enlarge Spell feat means...
Probably could use your brain on some of the Grandmaster Trainings and Martial Practice Ideas... LOL
 

MwaO

Explorer
Probably could use your brain on some of the Grandmaster Trainings and Martial Practice Ideas... LOL
I'm not a fan of Grandmaster Trainings or Ritual-type additions to 4e. You're talking to someone who never actually used a boon. And the only rituals I used were free for my Bard anyway.
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
I'm not a fan of Grandmaster Trainings or Ritual-type additions to 4e.
the Gmts and Boons or Blessings and Long Term Enchantments all ought to operate on the same parameters as items and item analysis skills I think ought to apply well.

But yeh rituals and analogs are a different kettle of fish. I do want to make them more appealing though, so from that perspective anyone can chip in I guess.
 
Alchemical items have a lot of problems because they don't scale properly and in multiple ways. And if you don't take an attack item, then you don't have a free attack granted to you by your theme.

Here are the basic problems, even for the solid options:
Unless the item is in hand, it is a minor action to draw it out. Obvious ways around this that are good even and in themselves.

The attack bonus is at best level+5 once you get the +2 to hit. Except level+5 isn't your level. It is the level of the item+5. Which can be up to 4 lower than yours.

Damage almost never scales properly. Adding +1d6/5 levels is basically meaningless - either you kill the minions with the item or you don't.

Items that are good independent of level are eventually of negligible cost. Sweet Water is 20 gp. When you get 500 gp per encounter, who cares? Suppression Crystals that cost 40 gp when you make 5000 gold per encounter? Oil of Etherealness is an exception to this, but waiting until 20th level?

Giggle Dust & Pacification Dust are both strong for what they are, but one's Dungeon Magazine and the other is a Rare. And eventually, a Wizard's encounter options are likely stronger than either of them. Simply because of what Enlarge Spell feat means...
Yeah, Alchemical item attacks should get an attack bonus from the character, and inherent bonus (just like ALL non-weapon non-implement attacks should of course, AND should benefit from expertise, etc). This presents a small problem of lower level items being very cheap but still hitting on your attack bonus, but if the damage scaled properly this would be a marginal issue (yeah, maybe you'd use the cheap low level items for minion sweepers, but at-wills already do that well enough, and the hassle of carrying around and getting out your ammo constantly probably offsets any real advantage).

There are definitely items that are GOOD, but again scaling should happen. Sure, Sweet Water is 20gp, but what if it only dealt with effects of its own level or less? Then you'd want the expensive higher level versions... Same with the blast packs, smoke sticks, etc.

Also I think they should have cleaned up poisons and cleanly integrated them into the alchemy system, which would have given it a more interesting dimension (though it might step on the Essassin I wasn't that impressed with it anyway).
 

Garthanos

Arcadian Knight
Yeah, Alchemical item attacks should get an attack bonus from the character, and inherent bonus (just like ALL non-weapon non-implement attacks should of course, AND should benefit from expertise, etc). This presents a small problem of lower level items being very cheap but still hitting on your attack bonus, but if the damage scaled properly this would be a marginal issue (yeah, maybe you'd use the cheap low level items for minion sweepers, but at-wills already do that well enough, and the hassle of carrying around and getting out your ammo constantly probably offsets any real advantage).

There are definitely items that are GOOD, but again scaling should happen. Sure, Sweet Water is 20gp, but what if it only dealt with effects of its own level or less? Then you'd want the expensive higher level versions... Same with the blast packs, smoke sticks, etc.

Also I think they should have cleaned up poisons and cleanly integrated them into the alchemy system, which would have given it a more interesting dimension (though it might step on the Essassin I wasn't that impressed with it anyway).
Sounds like a valid project...

I was thinking my Clockwork Genius would add fragile but renaissance style techie items extending the Alchemical box, but I think keeping it distinct might be fun for emphasis.

Magic has alchemy as almost a branch off ... Martial has primitive tech as branch off, or maybe not. LOL
 

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