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Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Shades remain wildly overpowered. Cleared a first full run with two teams, one comprised of a Bride/Lich/Skeleton/Mummy and another that was just two Shades. The first team ran mostly stress, using the Lich to throw up clouds while the Bride and Mummy shuffled things and the Skeleton tanked with stress counters; however, by reorganizing the party and putting the mummy in the back you can still do a decent damage team, which I like. The second team was a dodge-retaliation thing, but I slowly built toward giving both Shades their unique item and Burning Blood, which grants massive stat boosts for empty party slots. Combined with the talent that gives tons of Spellpower for having two or fewer minions, the whole thing snowballs very quickly and whatever your Shades aren't killing, spells will[1]; as if to add insult to injury, I got the Power Fist at one point and it was two-shotting things at easily replenishable mana costs. The only threats are things that ignore evasion, but the other team works well for that because the Skeleton taunts hard and doesn't care about evading anything. Nothing else was really a problem except one Floor 5 enemy, the stance gunners, as Brides and Mummies can't easily stance break things in the fourth slot.

My big tip would be to route through Cultists and Sacrificial Altars a lot. Cultists will always provide the unique items for the party you bring (at least for a while; they seemed to stop offering the Shade item eventually), or consumables for empty party slots; sacrifice a Dark Knight at every Altar for an experience book consumable to rocket Iratus's level up for talents. Build the Obelisk and then Library in that order, and do whatever else you need to do as you go, hopefully getting built up by floor 3 or so. Calcination and Distillation are really good; I basically never used the Mortuary when I could just burn a handful of extra parts to heal, but I also had parties that almost never took damage or healed it all back anyway.

[1] Shades aren't super great against the Inventor, so I used the stress party against him and the Keymaster, but they completely trivialize the Monster Hunter, whose entire gimmick is that he gets free attacks when your minions act; that just kills him faster because he misses and gets hosed up. Spells do great against the Pyromancer, and the Grand Magister ended up wasting his time attacking my ubertank Skeleton and accomplishing very little.

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Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


The advantage of stress is that it cascades in a well-made stress team. For example, if you shuffle the heroes with a Banshee/Mummy/Bride and they swap between two Lich clouds, they'll take multiple ticks of cloud stress, then if one dies of a heart attack everybody moves forward, into the clouds, which does the damage again, and every time someone goes insane or dies or sometimes just moves they take little ticks of stress that will cause heart attack checks when at 0; even floor 5 enemies can have their stress heavily depleted quickly. There are also far more gimmicks related to having low health than there are related to having low stress or taking stress damage (though there are one or two nasty ones), and a stress team can freely use the "heal all units to full Vigor" spell because they're not doing Vigor damage anyway.

The downside is the randomness factor. Enemies get inspired which can suck (though bear in mind an early insanity can completely cripple them even though they only got stressed once), some of the insanity effects are possibly worse than inspiration (berserk and the one that gives them double actions but damages them are rough), and heart attack checks are RNG. Stress teams tend to want to be tanky to mitigate this, while kill teams can sometimes afford to throw a lot of high damage glass cannon types into the mix and just win before they die (teams that lean on Unfrozen can be like this).

I wouldn't say they're totally balanced, as I think you're usually better off just killing things and Shade dodge teams do exactly that very effectively, but I do tend to think stress teams are very safe if built right and will usually ride out a fight where enemies have dangerous gimmicks. The team I mentioned above with Bride/Lich/Mummy/Skeleton is very safe if you focus primarily on defensive measures for everyone but the Bride (who I max out Luck on); take Armor/Resistance on the Skeleton, grab some Blocks for the Mummy and Lich, plaster a Jester's Face on the Skeleton, and most of the incidental damage you'll be taking is chip on the Skeleton.

One thing I'd like to try is using two Skeletons, one of whom is a tank with the Enchanted Bone that lets them be buffed, and use the Mediocrity buff on the tank over and over. I'd also like to experiment with a Sacrifice Lich equipped with the Vulture Feather, which allegedly grants a permanent buff when an ally dies, and see how much it can be stacked. Also if there's some way to gain permanent Vigor, a minion that can somehow reach 400+ can become invincible with that equippable that reduces damage taken based on lost health.

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


I have no idea how you're supposed to beat Good Always Wins without just absurd amounts of cheese. My stress build did fine all the way to the Cathedral, same as on regular difficulty, then just got completely annihilated by Gladiator/Paladin packs. I ended up just using Shades the entirety of the final floor, including against the boss (despite his mechanics kind of hosing Shades). It's a fun build though. Finger of Death got down to 5 Mana to cast.

I suspect there may be some adjustments made to floors 4 and 5. Until then, I wouldn't consider any build that isn't Accuracy/Evade-centric to be especially viable for the endgame. Didn't seem to be an issue on lower difficulties but it's definitely a thing on GAW.

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Tinfoil Papercut posted:

Skeleton tank is very good on floor 5, overall I think Widow is the best tank followed by Golem.
Most tanks can't protect you from the Paladin doing absurd damage when dealing stress, or the gun guy with the stance that just does damage to minions every time they take an action. Plus Gladiators get incredibly dangerous with 60% Evasion and high crit on Good Always Wins. Skeletons can't stand up to crits for very long. I think the Widow would be better for her ability to remove Evasion and Armor/Resistance/Block/Ward, but I'm not sure if she can take the damage reliably.

Like I said, Shades can handle most things (though you will want Dispel for the Inquisitors and their ignite zone), I'm just wondering what you're supposed to do with a "normal" composition. Just not getting hit seems vastly superior to almost any other option. Spellpower is also incredibly good as enemies can't retaliate against Iratus and you can make spells like Dispel or the two-hit physical (for Block stripping) free. These two factors just happen to coincide in a two Shade party being by far the strongest thing in the game right now, since Shades never get hit, heal themselves of any damage they do take, give Iratus infinite Mana (and Wrath, but dual Shades can't use their ultimates anyway so you just get to 100 for Blood Magic), and also boost Spellpower to the point you can be doing 200 damage with Bone Obelisk/Rain of Gore or hellbuff the Shades with Amok.

EDIT: To be clear, the party I'm talking about is literally just a pair of Shades with their minion-specific item and the Boiling Blood trinket that grants extra stats for empty party slots. You then grab the entire passive Ire tree (mainly for the regeneration at 75+ Wrath and Spellpower at 100) and the Destruction passive that grants Iratus 50 Spellpower if there are two or fewer minions alive. The Shades just swap places with their +Evasion skill all day or occasionally use their -Accuracy debuff on single enemies, while you cast spells with all the Mana they refund from their counterattacks. Unquestionably the strongest GAW party that I've come across.

Nakar fucked around with this message at 20:39 on Apr 26, 2020

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


It should definitely be possible to clear Cakewalk and probably More Pain with default classes. Skeleton is super strong and Bride can do a lot of work. It won't be a super optimized build but it should be possible to make both damage and stress teams. Also you can capture Dhampirs in floor 3 and create Vampires with the Blood Curse spell (that's how you unlock them anyway). Liches and Shades and Bone Golems are great but they're not required to make a decent team.

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Wanted to do into more detail on my stress team build, as I think it's pretty solid having tried it out on both More Pain and Good Always Wins. It definitely has some holes on the highest difficulty but I find it is extremely solid early and it's also versatile.

The team in question is Bride, Lich, Skeleton, and Mummy, usually in that party order left to right. The highlights:
  • This is a stress team focused on movement and mobility. The basic idea is that the Skeleton tanks and the Lich lays down clouds which the Bride and Mummy shuffle enemies into and out of while doing stress themselves. The team is also extremely mobile on its own: The Bride can always get to the back with her stress attack, the Mummy moves himself forward with his major stress move, the Skeleton has its shield charge, and the Lich has Dominate Undead to push someone two forward if they get out of position.
  • Note that while I do say it's a stress team, it is actually capable of reconfiguring into a damage team if you reorder them Bride>Mummy>Lich>Skeleton. It's not an ideal health damage team but in this configuration the Bride can use all her regular damage attacks, the Mummy can use his wrap pull, and the Lich can spam a magical attack. The Skeleton retains access to its Armor-ignoring strike and Smite, or it can just tank as before. It's even possible, though a little difficult, to switch to this configuration in the middle of a fight, to finish off stress-immune stuff. See the Lich section below.
  • Skeleton wants to grab Unnerving Fortitude the instant it gets a skill point. This adds a stress counter to its defensive stance, and this is what you're going to be doing with it 95% of its turns. Other skill upgrades don't matter for the most part, so I take things that boost its Armor and Resistance. For stat points, focus mostly on Armor and Resistance, but upgrade its Initiative to the max as soon as you're comfortable with the damage it's taking. It helps a lot to generally go first and get the stance up before enemies can take potshots at more fragile teammates. Trinkets should be the Legcuffs and Jester's Visage if you can find them; Legcuffs prevent the Skeleton from being moved which keeps it from having its stance broken, and the Visage increases the already-increased odds of it being attacked which is what you want because it is by far the most safe target on the team and gets free attacks when hit. Late in the game consider either putting points in Accuracy or replacing Legcuffs with something like the Mechanical Eye so that its counterattacks miss less often, but don't sweat it too much if they do; Skeleton is there to take hits and the stress is just a bonus.
  • Mummy wants to upgrade his stress skill that moves him forward to the version that also pushes the enemy back. This skill is pretty great as it will hit two targets and push them around, and since it hits position 3 it can technically hit position 4 as well via the AoE. He can also use his ST Curse ability on the last enemy to do more damage and trigger extra checks from the Curse DoT, or his all-enemies stress beam to fish for Insanity or Heart Attack checks, or his debuff clear for the party that can also move him back if you need that. Also has access to his ult from the front if you need a really big stress bomb, though the team's not set up to do -Luck debuffs. Statwise I like Blocks/Wards and Luck; the Mummy's pretty tanky by default, so he's not super worried about taking damage most of the time. For non-essential skills I'd take things that boost defensiveness or Dread, and for items anything that either helps him survive/recover or amplifies his stress damage are fine, he's not really picky.
  • Lich exists to lay down its stress cloud and that's basically it. Because the cloud is a trap, it can't miss, so Accuracy is completely irrelevant for the Lich and it can spam against evasive enemies all day; don't feel like you have to spread a cloud around if you just need to do a big packet of stress to a specific enemy. You want to upgrade the cloud first, but which way you go depends on whether you ever intend to use the team for health damage. If you do, take Corrosive Cloud as it completely removes Armor/Resistance for any enemy in the cloud; if you don't, take Toxic Cloud as stress damage ignores Resistance and the instant kills do add up over the course of a run. For stats I'd grab a couple Blocks and maybe an extra Ward and then just stack Dread. If you plan to ever do a health damage setup I would advise against taking Shrapnel even though it does more damage on paper, as your Mummy will get shredded without the unique Lich trinket (if you do have that, I guess it's fine). For items anything that restores Vigor/Wrath/Mana on damage is nice as getting pushed into the cloud does trigger those; with a little luck and some action economy you'll get a lot of returns from that. Finally if you intend to ever do the party as a health damage team, consider taking Ineffable Command over Dominate Undead: By targeting the Mummy, you will pull it into position 3 while moving the Lich and Skeleton into positions 1 and 2, which is exactly where everybody wants to be for that.
  • Bride's there for her ST stress shot that breaks stances and pushes people. Don't upgrade it to the one that prevents them from moving or you'll ruin it; use the other upgrade that ignores Ward (you will really appreciate this when an enemy goes into a deadly Stance and another one puts a Ward stack on them). Otherwise for skill upgrades I'd take Luck boosts and don't worry overmuch about the abilities themselves. For stats I'd probably take Luck on lower difficulties as she crits a lot but on GAW you may want to look into Evasion and maybe Vigor as she's the squishiest by far. She is also the best party member for pivoting to health damage if needed, as she has lots of damaging abilities and all of them can be used from position 4 anyway. If she's ever out of position just use her stress attack (which you probably were doing anyway) and she'll be in the back again.
This team is strong against almost everything and can even beat enemy formations where a single enemy has no Sanity bar if you stress the rest and then switch to health for the last (or use spells, later in the game); Toxic Cloud if you take it can also kill things immune to the cloud's actual stress effect. I would be careful against the floor 2 Berserkers as they're buffed by losing stress and the floor 5 Paladins will utterly destroy your Lich with their stance so you must interrupt that if you don't want your Lich to just explode from the feedback every time any enemy moves into a cloud. This team's especially great against enemies that want to move forward to do dangerous poo poo like the floor 1 Demolitionists and the floor 2 Flamethrower Dwarves. Just have a second team for anything that punishes stress or formations with multiple inanimates.

Obviously if you can find Shackles of War this team is way better as it prevents Inspiration which is annoying, but in the right circumstances it won't even matter as you can stress something down ludicrously fast. Cascades of three heart attacks in a single action are not uncommon. It can even defeat the Inventor, who is normally not good to fight with a stress team; maybe not so much on GAW, but I regularly defeat the Inventor on More Pain with this team in the stress configuration.

Two of the members of this team are default unlocks and the Mummy and Lich are pretty quick to unlock, but if you don't have them you may be able to compensate with a Wraith and Banshee respectively. The Wraith has similar pushing capabilities to the Mummy (better, really) but is significantly more fragile, and the Banshee can punish movement with her stance or debuff enemy Attack which can be useful early, plus she has a stun ult. You can build this team right out of the gate and it should be able to handle Cakewalk with ease as long as you remember to have a second damage-oriented party; hell, it may be able to handle Cakewalk without a second party as long as you reorder the minions before going into a physical-heavy fight. It's also a great party for at least the first 3 floors of GAW.

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Something I discovered: You can replace the Skeleton with a Wraith for significantly more AoE stress, but it is riskier due to the lack of a tank. The Wraith and Mummy will be fine (if you use the Mummy specific item it can heal tons from the Wraith AoE Cursing), but stray hits on the Bride and Lich can be deadly. A Wraith can also replace the Bride as it does more stress with its push, but there will be times the guaranteed stance break and Ward ignoring save the whole run and Bride pivots to damage better.

Also Bride's first skill can be upgraded to stun on crit, which can be a lifesaver if you have the Fate spell. In a desperate situation you can burn mana to stunlock something.

Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Walh Hara posted:

- Is the final boss also clearly stronger in higher difficulties compared to "more pain"? I had a pretty easy time on the last floors but the boss was a challenge (in hindsight I should have changed my team for him).
- What level is normal for your minions in the end? I was wondering whether I overleveled my minions (lvl 33) by using the same units 100% of the time or if this doesn't really matter.
- Is high initiative actually useful (besides unfrozen)? I assume a minion still has the same amount of turns regardless of high or low initiative?
1) The final boss is difficult mostly for his gimmicks and his allies. I suppose that makes the fight significantly harder the more difficult enemies in general are. The boss, like most of the bosses, has specific gimmicks (a second phase and party shuffling with allies that place traps in his case); a team countered by or not ideal to deal with those gimmicks won't do super well, and that's mostly difficulty-independent. I've beaten him on Good Always Wins with a team his setup effectively counters, but I was spamming Dispel like crazy to compensate for the fact my team was constantly triggering things that wouldn't have been triggered had I used a better setup.

2) Depends how many minions you use. Mid-high 20s seems about right for 2-3 teams, using the same team could hit 30+. If you use a ton of minions I could see ~20 average. It really doesn't matter a ton, minions should be more or less fully developed for skills by the endgame and the rest is just tiny handfuls of stat points that maybe make a tiny bit of difference.

3) Everyone gets a turn every round, yes, but high Initiative is still useful because it influences where things end up in the turn order. The benefit of going first in combat should need no explanation, but it also matters because you can make minions wait and delay their turns until the end of the round. With high enough Initiative, you can delay until the enemies have gone, have minions act, and then they'll act again at the start of the next round. Can potentially set up some powerful combos, or avoid situations like the floor 3 Bards healing someone you're trying to kill by hitting them four times before the Bard has another turn to do so.

EDIT: This game is developed by Russians and Russians love them some fuckin' Heroes of Might & Magic III, so it should come as no surprise that the turn order system is very similar to that and knowing how to abuse Wait in Heroes III is pretty important in high-level tactical play. And lest anyone question whether the Unfrozen devs are Heroes III fans, I'll just note there's an artifact called Shackles of War that prevents enemies from retreating and that's literally an artifact in Heroes III that has the same effect.

Nakar fucked around with this message at 14:15 on Apr 30, 2020

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Nakar
Sep 2, 2002

Ultima Ratio Regum


Walh Hara posted:

The most broken minion+item combo I've encountered so far is Fallen Dhampire + Spider Mandibles. Headless Hunter + Mechanical Eye is also pretty strong.

The most broken item otherwise is Orb of Negation. It just solves so many problems.
The most broken minion item is the Shade-specific unique item that restores Vigor for themselves and Mana/Wrath when they deal damage. Combined with the Boiling Blood and it's just absurd what two Shades can do by just waiting for enemies to kill themselves. It's also really good in a party context if you're using Gloomclaws since that can hit for ludicrous damage and restore a ton of Wrath and Mana all at once.

I've heard that, at least on More Pain, a solo Vampire with Boiling Blood can also be nearly invincible since she gets jacked stats and can heal any damage she takes every turn, but I haven't managed to try that one out.

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